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What happens after my arrest?

When you are arrested in Tennessee, Rule 5 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure immediately takes effect. Under this rule, what happens next depends on the severity of the criminal charge(s) you face.

If your arrest resulted from a presentment or indictment, law enforcement officers must take you before a magistrate without undue delay. The magistrate could be in the county of your arrest or in the county in which your alleged crime(s) took place.

If you face a “small offense” charge, the magistrate will hear your case. (S)he must advise you of the crime(s) with which you are charged and hear your plea. If you plead guilty, (s)he will hear all the relevant evidence and pass judgment on you. Conviction of a small offense results in imposition of a fine only, and you do not face any jail time.

If you wish to appeal your conviction, you have the automatic right to take your case to the appropriate circuit or criminal court for a trial de novo; i.e., a new nonjury trial. If you plead not guilty, the magistrate must set your case for trial and determine if and under what circumstances you can obtain pretrial release.

More serious misdemeanors

If you face charges of committing a more serious misdemeanor, again the magistrate must inform you of the nature of your alleged crime(s), inform you of your right to a jury trial, and take your plea. If you plead guilty, (s)he reduces your plea to writing and passes judgment. Again, you have the automatic right to appeal.

If you plead not guilty, the magistrate must set your preliminary hearing within 10 days if you remain in custody or within 30 days if you obtain pretrial release. You can waive a preliminary hearing if you so desire.

Felony charges

If you face felony charges, the magistrate must inform you of the following:

  • The charge(s) against you
  • Your right to remain silent
  • The fact that anything you say voluntarily may be used against you
  • Your right to counsel and the appointment of an attorney if you are indigent
  • The circumstances under which you can obtain pretrial release
  • Your right to a preliminary hearing

You may waive your preliminary hearing, but if you want one, again the magistrate must schedule it within 10 days if you remain in custody or within 30 days if you obtain pretrial release.

While this information is not legal advice, it can help you understand the post-arrest process and what to expect.

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