What Does " Bound Over " Mean ?

Criminal law creates it's own unique terminology. One of the common phrases is " Bound Over ". Most criminal cases in Tennessee start at the General Sessions Court . If the case cannot be settled at the General Sessions Court ,  a  citizen accused of a crime can have a preliminary hearing or waive your right to hearing . The court will bind over your case to the next meeting of the Grand Jury . So once your case is " Bound Over " , the case is in a state of limbo until the Grand Jury acts on the case . The time limit of how long the case is bound over varies from jurisdiction . In Nashville , Tennessee criminal cases , it could be months . In other counties such as Williamson , Sumner , and Cheatham , you are given your arraignment date once the case is bound over or transferred to the Grand Jury.

What is an Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in Tennessee ?

                                            

What is a aggravated vehicular homicide charge in Tennessee ? Most criminal charges have elements or components of what it takes to be convicted. Here is the jury charge of aggravated vehicular homicide ;

T.P.I. -- CRIM. 7.11

AGGRAVATED VEHICULAR HOMICIDE

            Members of the Jury, you have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of vehicular homicide as charged in Count _____ of the indictment.

            It is now your duty to determine whether the defendant is guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide as charged in Count _____ of the indictment.  The law provides for increased punishment for aggravated vehicular homicide.1

            Any person who commits the offense of aggravated vehicular homicide is guilty of a crime.

            For you to find the defendant guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, the state must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of the following essential elements:2

            (1)(A) that the defendant has two (2) or more prior convictions for driving

                        under the influence of an intoxicant, vehicular assault or any

                        combination of such offenses;

or

                (B)  that the defendant has one (1) or more prior convictions for the offense

                        of vehicular homicide;

or

                 (C)(1)  that there was at the time of the offense twenty-hundredths of one

                             percent (.20%) or more by weight of blood alcohol in the

                             defendant’s blood;

and

                     (2)  that the defendant has one (1) prior conviction for driving under the

                             influence of an intoxicant or vehicular assault.

            “Prior conviction” means an offense for which the defendant was convicted prior to the commission of the instant vehicular homicide and includes convictions under the laws of any other state, government, or country which, if committed in this state, would have constituted vehicular homicide, vehicular assault or driving under the influence of an intoxicant.3

Now here is the key point.The way the charge is worded the case is bifurcated.In a nutshell, the state must first prove you are guilty of vehicular homicide then proceed to prove the prior aggravating convictions.

What is a Grand Jury ?

                                             

What is a grand jury ? A grand jury in Tennessee is made up of a foreperson and 12 members.A Tennessee grand jury's main duty is to inquire into , consider , and act on all criminal cases submitted to it by the district attorney general.Article I Section 14 of the Tennessee Constitution  provides that no person shall be put to answer any criminal charge but by presentment , indictment , or impeachment. So , a grand jury must authorize any criminal charges to be tried before a jury.

Here are some random facts about the grand jury process ;

  1. The proceedings are secret.
  2. Normally it is not recorded.
  3. No witnesses for the defense are allowed to attend unless allowed by the district attorney.
  4. Hearsay is allowed.

From my perspective , allowing hearsay evidence is the most troubling aspect of the process.The grand jury system was designed to act as a safeguard from abuses of the government.Now , a investigator from the district attorney's office can just read a report and the arresting officer does not have to testify. So over the years the power of the grand jury has been watered down by allowing hearsay evidence to be admitted.

 

What is a Reckless Endangerment Charge Under Tennessee Law

 Tennessee Driving Under The Influence (DUI)  cases does not have a lesser included offense or lesser charge under Tennessee criminal law.Technically , one is either found guilty or innocent at trial. However , some jurisdictions may offer plea bargains to other offenses rather than a DUI.  DUI cases in Murfreesboro , Tn. , La Vergne , Tn. , Smyrna , Tn. , Rutherford County and Cannon County are handled by the District Attorney's office for the 16th  Judicial District Those assistant district attorneys  sometimes offer a plea bargain of DUI cases to reckless endangerment.

What is reckless endangerment ? Here's the legal definition ;

39-13-103. Reckless endangerment. —

 
 
 

     
 
 

(a)  A person commits an offense who recklessly engages in conduct that places or may place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

 
 
 
     
 
 

(b)  Reckless endangerment is a Class A misdemeanor; however, reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon is a Class E felony.

So , what does it mean ?

A plea  to a misdemeanor  reckless endangerment carries a punishment up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine up to $2500.00. The big issue is that it puts 8 points on your drivers license.

So is a plea to reckless endangerment in your best interest ? It depends on the facts of the case. Make sure you get a complete case review of your Tennessee DUI case.

 

 

 

 

 

What is Probable Cause ?

In Tennessee criminal courts , we hear the word " Probable Cause'" used a lot.

Probable cause is a legal term of art that means a constitutionally prescribed standard of proof.Probable cause is the burden of proof necessary for the issuance of an indictment or an arrest warrant.

This is the standard of proof required to send a case from a preliminary hearing to the grand jury.

What is an Arraignment

An arraignment is the first formal procedure in the criminal courts in Tennessee. An arraignment is the procedure where the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment or presentment.The defendant is made aware of the charge and enters a plea.

Now , the formal reading of the indictment or presentment is usually waived. In fact , your appearance can be waived and your lawyer can appear for you at your first court appearance.

What is a Plea Bargain ?

As I continue to determine what direction this blog should take., I am going to add a new category. The Tennessee Criminal Law Dictionary.

What is a Plea Bargain ?

A plea bargain is the process where the District Attorney and the lawyer for the accused tries to work out an agreement to settle the criminal charge.It usually involves the accused pleading to a lessor crime or a reduced jail sentence.Plea bargaining is governed by Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Note. As a friendly reminder for my prosecuting attorney friends who may read the blog. I would like to remind everyone that a plea bargain means plea equals bargain.