Misdemeanors
Criminal Defense Law

Most criminal charges are misdemeanors which mean they are not serious charges and have sentences less than a year in jail and are usually resolved with a fine or other lesser sentence.  Misdemeanor charges are handled in the General Sessions Court, which is downstairs on the bottom level at the Criminal Justice Center in Memphis at 201 Poplar.

Misdemeanors are initiated by an arrest or the issuance of a misdemeanor citation in lieu of an arrest and are most commonly simple drug possession (less than half an ounce of marijuana), simple assault, driving without a license, or theft under $500.  A first DUI charge is also a misdemeanor but can carry some of the highest penalties for a misdemeanor.  A misdemeanor citation is like a serious traffic ticket, but it requires you go down to the jail on your own before your first court date and be booked and processed.  You may also be required to post a bond even if you are not arrested, and could be arrested at your first court date if you haven’t already posted the bond.  Some crimes like a first DUI require a $1000 bond no matter what, so if you were taken to a hospital instead of jail, you will need to post that bond before going to court or you will be arrested.

Usually all misdemeanors are resolved in General Sessions Court by a plea bargain or dismissal, but it is also possible to waive your case upstairs to the Criminal Court to try and get a better deal from a different prosecutor.  Your lawyer will be able to advise you about whether that is reasonable strategy in your case, and sometimes your case could be dismissed by transferring it to Criminal Court because it’s possible you won’t be indicted by a grand jury and the case will be dismissed.  Sometimes having your lawyer use the threat of waiving your case to the Criminal Court will cause the prosecutor in General Sessions to change their offer to something more reasonable just to save the court system some time and money.  It is also possible to have a bench trial for a misdemeanor in General Sessions Court, which is where the judge hears your case instead of a jury.

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