Everyone in Tennessee has certain rights that are guaranteed by both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  In fact, those charged with Tennessee crimes may have more rights than people in other states.  These legal rights include, but are not limited to:

  • The right to have a lawyer represent you. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one.
  • The right, in most cases, to have a preliminary hearing to determine the issue of probable cause (in other words—did the officer have a legal right to arrest you?).
  • The right to have a grand jury consider your case.
  • Ultimately, the right to a jury trial.
  • Throughout all proceedings, the right to remain silent, to be presumed not guilty, to plead not guilty and to persist in that plea.
  • The right to require the state (prosecution) to prove a your guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
  • The right to confront each witness offers testimony for the prosecution in court, face to face (with very limited exceptions). This means a defense lawyer has the right to cross-examine (ask questions of) each witness.
  • Should you be convicted, you have the right to appeal the conviction, the sentence, or both to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.  If unable to afford an attorney, every defendant also has the right to have an appointed lawyer represent that defendant at the appellate stage of the proceedings.