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Typical Steps in a Criminal Case

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Judge and Gavel

Hey There

It's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the typical steps in a criminal court case provided below. If you’re looking for an attorney in the Columbia Tennessee area, look no further. John M. Schweri is a lawyer with a record of results and helping clients prepare.

These are the steps in a typical criminal court case

Arrested or Criminal Citation

Arrested or presented with a citation to appear in Court for a criminal charge

General Sessions or Municipal Court

A trial court for misdemeanors and hearing court for felonies

Grand Jury

12 people who meet in secret and evaluate cases that have been waived to the Grand Jury by the defendant or a Direct Presentment is done by the District Attorney’s office and the Grand Jury decides if they will issue a “True Bill” which means they vote for the defendant to be Indicted and the case continue to Circuit Court, If no True Bill is issued the case stops in the Grand Jury

Circuit Court

Typically client will have Arraignment to be read the charges of the Indictment and receive a copy, then the client will either Hire a private attorney, or be appointed the public defender’s office

Circuit Court Plea Deadline

This is the day where the defendant will enter a Plea or set their case for a jury trial – Typically this is the last day to decide if you want a trial or to enter a Plea

Jury Trial

The Defendant will have a jury trial by 12 of their peers, the trial will begin with Voir Dire which is the Jury selection process with questions being asked by both attorneys, then striking jurors from the potential list, and finally swearing in the Jury, then there will be Opening Arguments by the District Attorney, then Defense Counsel, then the District Attorney will call their first witness and proceed through all of their witnesses which are typically police officers on the scene, detectives, witnesses, victims, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and other specialists to testify, then the defense can present their witnesses and the defendant will choose whether he or she would like to testify, the defense can call their own experts and specialists, and then there will be closing arguments by the District Attorney’s office and defense counsel, the Judge will read the Jury Instructions and the Jury will retire to deliberate, select a foreperson, make a decision and announce it to the Judge, attorneys, and defendant

Sentencing Hearing

This hearing will be approximately 45 days from the Jury Trial where the state will call the pre-sentence report creator, other witnesses and victims to testify, and the defense can call witnesses, family members, church members, neighbors, and others to testify on his or her behalf and ask the Judge for probation versus jail or prison time and then the Judge will sentence the defendant

Motion for New Trial

Defense counsel will review the Transcript or typed testimony from the trial and other evidence and prepare a Motion to Argue that the defendant was deprived of a Constitutional Right to a fair trial and receive another trial

Original Appeal to Appellate Court

If the Motion for New Trial is not Granted, defendant’s counsel shall prepare an Appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Nashville on why the Defendant’s conviction and/or sentence should be overturned, modified, sent back down to have a new trial, or other relief that is requested

Rule 11 Application to TN Supreme Court

Rule 11 Application for Permission to Apply to the Tennessee Supreme Court – If the original appeal is denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals, defense counsel shall present a new Appeal with narrower issues to the Tennessee Supreme Court to be reviewed and if accepted defense counsel shall do Oral Argument and briefs in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court


If the Rule 11 Application is denied, the Clerk’s office shall issue a Mandamus and the case is closed at the State level

Writ of Habeas Corpus

The defendant has one year from the date of Mandamus by the Tennessee Supreme Court to file a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief in Federal Court asking for relief from a state court conviction.



Other Types of Post Trial Relief


Post Conviction DNA Act

Asking the Court to test DNA after conviction if new DNA is found or testing processes were not available specific to this case at the time of conviction 

Writ of Error Coram Nobis

Filing a Petition to correct an error either in admission or denial of evidence, jury instructions, illegal arrest, illegal sentence

Rule 36.1 Relief to Correct a Judgment
Motion to correct an illegal judgment in State Court

Post Conviction Relief

Putting trial counsel on trial for providing ineffective assistance of counsel leading to convictions





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