The following questions and answers are offered to help those who have been charged with a crime in the Memphis area. Where will I have to go for court? If you have been charged in Memphis, you will go to the Criminal Court building downtown at 201 Poplar Ave.  Your case will be heard in General Sessions court, which is in the lower level of 201 Poplar (often referred to as “downstairs,” or, more colloquially, “the glamour slammer”).  All Memphis criminal cases start out in General Sessions; some, including most felonies, go to Criminal Court either through a process called information or through the grand jury. If you were charged in Bartlett, Collierville, or Germantown your case will be heard in that particular jurisdiction’s court.  Misdemeanors can often be resolved without going downtown, but if it’s a serious charge such as a felony it will likely be sent to Criminal Court in Memphis through one of the ways I just mentioned. I was given a citation.  What does that mean? A citation is issued in many misdemeanor cases such as disorderly conduct, shoplifting, and simple drug possession.  A citation is given to the accused in lieu of prosecution.  That means you do not get arrested or have to pay a bond, but you are given a date to go downtown and be booked and processed.  That date is usually a couple weeks after the citation is issued.  If your case is in one of the seperate jurisdictions mentioned above, you will not go downtown but instead to that jurisdiction’s processing center. At the booking date you do not go in front of a judge.  You will be fingerprinted and will fill out some paperwork so that a file can be created for your case.  The whole process takes about an hour.  On your booking date they will tell you when your court date is set, which will probably be a few weeks later. I’ve been charged with a crime and don’t know what to do.  What should I do next? Call an experienced Memphis criminal defense lawyer.  He or she can review your case and give you an candid assessment of your options.  You need to know exactly what you’re charged with (it’s not enough to say “a drug crime” or “a sex crime”) and you need to be honest.  If you have more than one charge, tell them.  If you were out on bail or on probation for a previous charge, tell them.  If you have prior convictions, tell them.  The more the lawyer knows about your case, the better he or she can help you. Will I go to jail?  Will this charge be on my record forever? It depends on the crime for which you are charged, the particular facts of the case, and whether you have a prior criminal record.  Most first-time offenders will be eligible for probation, as well as diversion which allows you to have the charge removed from your record after probation is completed.  One exception to diversion is DUI.  A person charged with driving under the influence in Tennessee is not eligible for diversion, so the only ways to avoid having it on your record permanently are to either be acquitted at trial or have the case dismissed by the prosecution.  Furthermore, while DUI offenders may receive probation if convicted, by law a certain amount of time must be served in jail.  A first offense carries a minimum 48 hours in jail, a second offense minimum 45 days in jail. I want to maintain my innocence and fight this case.  What do I do? One option is to have a preliminary hearing, which is a hearing to determine probable cause for the case to go to the grand jury.  Because this is such a low standard, usually probable cause is found and the case goes forward.  The object of a preliminary hearing is not to win the case and get it dismissed, but to gather evidence by cross examining the state’s witnesses.  These are the same witnesses that would have to testify should the case go to trial.  At trial a jury would determine if there is enough evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict.  The state would have to produce its witnesses and evidence, and you would have the opportunity to call your own witnesses and even testify for yourself.  You and your Memphis criminal lawyer must go over these and other issues to determine what is best course of action to take.  Memphis Criminal Defense Lawyer Patrick Stegall represents individuals charged with all types of criminal offenses, and specializes in helping first-time offenders stay out of jail and keep convictions off their record.  If you or someone close to you has been charged in the Memphis area, please contact Mr. Stegall at or 901-205-9894.

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