Navigating the criminal justice system is no simple task. One of the most frequently asked questions our legal team at Barnes & Fersten encounters is, “what happens with my case after the arraignment?” This question is understandable – the process can seem confusing and daunting for someone who has not gone through it before.
Our experienced team of criminal defense attorneys in Knoxville, Tennessee are here to guide you through this challenging process. This blog outlines the journey your case will take post-arraignment, explaining every step to ensure your rights are protected and your interests are served.
Step 1: Investigation
An in-depth investigation is the cornerstone of a successful defense strategy. We work diligently to gather and analyze all relevant pieces of evidence that may prove crucial to your case. This includes ordering bodycam and/or dash camera footage, obtaining 911 calls, medical records, and any other significant documents. Understanding the entire picture is pivotal in shaping a robust defense. Let’s take a closer look at what this step entails for several different charges.
In a DUI case, our attorneys will order all pertinent bodycam or dashcam footage from the arresting officer’s vehicle, as well as any available 911 calls. Medical records, especially blood alcohol level readings and their corresponding collection and handling procedures, are also closely examined. These can play a significant role in disputing the legality of the arrest or the validity of the blood alcohol readings.
Drug Possession Investigations
For drug possession cases, we not only order the bodycam and dashcam footage but also pay close attention to the details surrounding the search and seizure process. Were the proper protocols followed? Was there a valid reason for search, or was your Fourth Amendment right violated? We scrutinize the evidence chain of custody to make sure there were no errors that could affect the integrity of the evidence.
Assault Case Investigations
In an assault case, it’s vital to obtain witness statements, surveillance videos, 911 calls, and medical records of the alleged victim. We meticulously analyze this evidence to identify any inconsistencies or contradictions that could cast doubt on the prosecution’s narrative.
In a shoplifting case, we’ll thoroughly review any available CCTV footage from the store, as well as the store’s loss prevention policies and procedures. We look closely at your interactions with store personnel and whether they adhered to the proper protocols when detaining you.
Regardless of the type of charges you face, our investigative process remains the same: thorough, meticulous, and dedicated to uncovering every detail that could potentially work in your favor. Evidence that may seem trivial to an untrained eye could be the linchpin in your case, and at Barnes & Fersten, no stone goes unturned.
Step 2: Status Dates
Following an arraignment, the next phase in your legal journey is marked by what we refer to as status dates, or ‘other than trial’ dates. Predominantly observed in most counties in East Tennessee, these dates might occur several times, each offering us a critical chance to negotiate and strategize for your defense.
The Role of Status Dates
Regardless of the nature of your criminal charges, status dates open a door for us to engage directly with the prosecutor assigned to your case. This interaction allows us to bring to light essential evidence, question the strength of their case, and recount your side of the story.
One of our main areas of focus during these dates is discussing any potential legal issues surrounding your arrest or the collection of evidence. Whether it’s an illegal search, seizure, arrest, or a questionable breath or blood test, these matters could significantly influence what evidence is admissible at trial. We strive to leverage these issues to work towards the potential dismissal of your case or the suppression of substantial evidence.
Reframing the Case
The primary aim of these status dates is to challenge the prosecutor’s perspective of your case. The police officer’s affidavit of complaint might initially appear damning, but it’s our role to question its integrity and substance. We work to demonstrate that your case may not be as straightforward as the affidavit suggests.
A key tactic we employ during this stage is to scrutinize the police officer’s credibility. We rigorously investigate their affidavit or warrant, highlighting any areas where they may have exaggerated facts or events to establish probable cause.
Leveraging the Law for Your Defense
Understanding the intricacies of criminal law across all categories of offenses enables us to wield this knowledge as a tool for negotiation. By raising potential legal infringements, we can aim to get your case dismissed or key evidence excluded from the trial.
At Barnes & Fersten, we view these status dates as pivotal moments in building your defense. We apply our expertise and diligence to leverage these opportunities, continually aiming to negotiate for the best possible resolution in your case. In the complex world of criminal defense, we serve as your zealous advocates, ensuring your rights and interests are staunchly protected.
Step 3: Preliminary Hearings
As we progress through the post-arraignment proceedings, we arrive at a juncture known as the preliminary hearing. Though many cases find resolution through negotiations before reaching this stage, a preliminary hearing can occur for a variety of reasons.
What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing is a key proceeding in the criminal justice system where the judge determines if sufficient evidence exists to proceed with a trial against the defendant. During this hearing, the prosecution presents their evidence and witnesses. The defense, meanwhile, primarily focuses on challenging the prosecution’s case, seeking to show that there is not enough evidence to warrant a trial.
The standard of proof at a preliminary hearing, known as “probable cause,” is significantly lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement at a trial. Probable cause means it’s more likely than not that a crime was committed, and the defendant committed it.
Should the judge find probable cause, the case advances to the next steps in the criminal justice process, potentially including pre-trial motions, plea bargaining, and a trial. Conversely, if the judge determines that probable cause doesn’t exist, the charges might be dismissed.
How a Preliminary Hearing Can Aid Your Defense
Our attorneys at Barnes & Fersten may choose to proceed with a preliminary hearing for a variety of strategic reasons. Sometimes, it’s because we believe there was inadequate probable cause for your arrest, or there exists a potent argument for evidence suppression. If we can convincingly make this case, the judge may dismiss your charges.
But the potential benefits of a preliminary hearing extend beyond these outcomes. These proceedings grant us the valuable chance to hear the arresting officer’s sworn testimony. This insight is instrumental in shaping our defense strategy as it reveals what the officer’s testimony will be at trial. It also enables us to question the officer’s credibility. Perhaps the affidavit of complaint or warrant was overstated, or the officer’s recall of your arrest is hazy due to the passage of time. These are the avenues we explore to fortify your defense.
We understand that the journey through the court system can be complex and intimidating. You don’t have to face it alone. The experienced DUI and criminal defense attorneys at Barnes & Fersten are committed to guiding you every step of the way. If you are facing a criminal charge in Tennessee, now is the time to take action. Contact Barnes & Fersten today for an expert defense team dedicated to securing the best possible resolution for your case.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.