Very few people noticed the fact that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently extended the jury trial suspension. A few limited exceptions apply. However, for the most part, if you face criminal charges in Montgomery County and you want your day in court, get ready to wait.
In fact, you might be in for a very long wait. The jury trial suspension has been in place for almost a year. So, if you want a jury trial date, there is a long line of people in front of you. Furthermore, once these trials resume, juror selection will probably not be the same. In the before times, hundreds of people gathered in a crowded central jury room, where they usually waited for hours. Going forward, those gatherings will probably be much smaller, which means less available jurors, which means an even longer wait.
Jail cases are one of the limited exceptions mentioned above. If you are in jail and you want a jury trial, you automatically go to the front of the line. On the other hand, if the Clarksville, TN bail bonds company, Fizer Bonding Company, LLC helped get your tail outta jail fast , you must take a number. The good news is that, as outlined below, this delay is not always a bad thing for criminal defendants.
At Fizer Bonding Company, we do more than file paperwork and open cell doors. We go over all your jail release options and carefully explain the conditions of bail. Furthermore, although we are not lawyers, we offer important resources about the criminal justice process. So, once your case begins, you have a better idea of what to expect.
Jury Trials in Montgomery County
There is an old saying among lawyers that William Gladstone, the English jurist who said “Justice delayed is justice denied,” was obviously not a criminal defense attorney. Sometimes, delay is the best defense.
The longer the delay, the more the state’s evidence degrades. Witness’ memories fade. In fact, in some cases, they may fade so much that they have no independent recollection of the events. Therefore, these witnesses could be unable to clearly and succinctly testify. Additionally, as time goes by, other witnesses may move outside the court’s jurisdiction. So, prosecutors may not be able to subpoena the witnesses.
This degradation often affects physical evidence as well. Items may become lost in lots or buried somewhere in evidence locker rooms and not easily retrievable.
Moreover, jury trials give attorneys more options in terms of defenses. In a close case, jurors often react strongly to appearance clues. The so-called nerd defense is a good example. Jurors are less likely to convict defendants who wear glasses, especially if they are accused of violent crimes. The opposite is also true. Many jurors hate it if the defendant appears disinterested or non-remorseful.
Because of these things, many attorneys spend almost as much time setting the stage as they spend on their oral arguments.
Bench Trials in Robertson County
Physical appearance doesn’t matter nearly as much in non-jury trials. Although judges are people too, they are usually much more interested in the facts and legal arguments. They do not particularly care about appearances.
The wait for a bench trial is usually much shorter. In fact, the wait is usually a few weeks, as opposed to a few months or even longer. Less waiting is usually easier on defendants who worked with a Montgomery County bail bond company, like Fizer Bonding Company. The sooner the case ends, the sooner bail restrictions end as well. For the most part, the trials themselves are much shorter. A one-witness misdemeanor jury trial usually takes at least a day. A one-witness misdemeanor bench trial might not last more than a half hour.
Sometimes, attorneys use bench trial settings as a tool. Trial dates often pressure overworked prosecutors to agree to more favorable plea bargains. More on that below.
Technically, both sides have the right to a jury trial in Tennessee. So, if the defendant wants a bench trial, prosecutors must also waive their right to a jury trial. Prosecutors almost always sign these waivers, especially if they believe the legal case is relatively solid.
The same burden of proof applies in bench and jury trials. Prosecutors must establish every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Plea Bargains in Tennessee
In the early days of the Republic, criminal trials resolved all criminal cases. The trial percentage began declining sharply around 1900. However, even up to the late twentieth century, trials were still fairly common. Today, plea bargains resolve about 95 percent of the criminal cases in Tennessee.
Plea bargains have a bad reputation among many defendants. Indeed, too many lawyers simply take the state’s first offer. However, if done properly, a plea bargain can produce substantial benefits without the risk of a trial.
Preparation is important. Defense attorneys must always prepare as if the case will go to trial. As legal and factual defenses strengthen, an attorney’s negotiating position becomes stronger. It’s always easier to get a good deal when you negotiate from a position of strength.
In the end, like any other out-of-court settlement, a plea bargain usually involves some give and take. Frequently, that means a reduced sentence and/or a reduced charge. Defendants face lower punishment and prosecutors get to add conviction notches to their legal gun belts.
Incarceration to probation is the most common sentence reduction. Probation’s court supervision is a drag. But it’s better than being locked up. Furthermore, even if you have a less-than-perfect probation record, early discharge is usually available.
Charge reductions are especially important in certain kinds of cases, such as DUIs, which have significant collateral consequences. Prosecutors sometimes reduce weak DUI cases to reckless driving. According to the penal code, DUI and reckless driving have basically the same penalty. But the collateral consequences of a DUI are much harsher.
In many cases, a plea bargain arrangement does not involve a criminal conviction. Many prosecutors offer pretrial diversion, especially in nonviolent cases. Deferred adjudication might be available as well. These defendants plead guilty and serve probation. If everything goes well, a judge then dismisses their cases.
To learn more about the criminal justice process and the role of a bail bond company near you, contact Fizer Bonding Company. Fizer Bail Bonds serves the entire Montgomery and Robertson County areas and has since 1986. We are located at 501 5th Avenue E, near the United States Postal Service in Springfield, TN. Fizer Bonding Company is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. For more info about Fizer Bonding Company bail bonds, click here.
“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”
Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee
Fizer Bonding Company in Robertson County Tennessee
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