New Video FAQ: How do you defend against a drug conspiracy case?

Nashville criminal defense attorney Brent Horst has a new video explaining the challenges of defending a drug conspiracy case.

Drug conspiracies are broad charges that can be levied against individuals who have tangential and sometimes unintentional involvement in a more specific drug crime. These charges can be difficult to defend, but, as Brent Horst explains in the video, an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer can implement specific strategies to help accused conspirators overcome such allegations.

You can view the video here.

If you are facing drug conspiracy charges, it is important to act fast. Call Horst Law at (615) 403-2971 to begin establishing your defense.


Sixth Circuit Court Makes Decision on Sex Offender Registries

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, OH, has made a decision to stop the practice of retroactively applying registration mandates to sex offenders who were convicted prior to the inception of these registries. Attorney Brent Horst applauds this decision as a great step forward for freedom, as many of these mandates are considered to be unconstitutional.

For example, many people who were accused of sex crimes in the past took plea deals rather than fighting the charges in court. For them, a few years on probation was better than the risk of going to prison for years, regardless of whether or not they actually committed the crime in question. When sex offender registries were created, many of these individuals were retroactively added to them, which was not part of their plea deals. As these laws have gained strength, they have morphed into punitive measures and forced many non-violent people into the fringes of society, pushing them away from their jobs and families.

The Court’s decision is a first step towards reversing this unfair punitive action and protecting the Constitutional rights of these individuals. To learn more about it, click here.

If you have been placed on a sex offender registry retroactively, this decision may be of special interest to you. The ruling could be a way out of some of the harsh restrictions that registering as a sex offender imposes. Contact Horst Law at (615) 403-2971 to speak with an attorney about your situation.


Tips for Selecting a Jury in a Defense Case

Criminal defense cases can be won or lost before they ever hit the courtroom depending on who is selected to be on the jury. Choosing jurors is part of an attorney’s job, and an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to weed out individuals who may potentially be harmful to his or her client.

Nashville criminal defense lawyer Brent Horst has been defending his clients from criminal accusations for more than 25 years. In that time, he’s developed a jury selection method that he has used to great success. In his jury selection tips, Brent describes what kind of questions to ask potential jurors, what kinds of occupations may not be sympathetic to criminal defense clients, and more.


Channel 5 News Publishes Misleading Story

Channel 5 News has published a story with the misleading headline “41 Arrested in Nashville Human Trafficking Operation.”

The headline makes it seem as though all of these people were accused of sex trafficking when, in fact, 40 of these individuals were charged with the much more mild crime of soliciting prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor. The remaining person was charged with solicitation of a minor, but the details of that case may show that officers entrapped this individual.

Attorney Brent Horst’s remarks on this story can be found on his Facebook page.


Why do expunged cases sometimes appear on background checks?

In a webpage posted here, attorney Brent Horst of Horst Law outlines possible reasons an expunged record may appear on a background check.

Records that should have been expunged but appear on background checks can have real consequences on a person’s life, as some lenders, employers, or landlords may deny their services to individuals who have a criminal record.

If you were accused of a crime that was dismissed or could otherwise be expunged, you owe it to yourself to make sure it does not appear in your criminal history. Call Horst Law to learn more about how record expungement can prove beneficial to you. Dial (615) 403-2971.


Attacking Eyewitness Testimony

Talking to jurySome psychologists are experts in discrediting eyewitness testimony. The experts can explain to the jury how human perception works, how people fill in blanks subconsciously, how when a gun is involved in a crime, the witness will focus on the gun and not even look at the person behind it; they can explain why a witness can truly believe they saw something that they just did not see. Our Nashville criminal defense lawyer is an expert and will increase your odds in court.

However, this area of expertise is still in its infancy and judges are currently distrusting of such testimony. Assuming the judge does not allow the testimony, how then can an eyewitness’ version be attacked … especially an eyewitness who seems likeable and trustworthy?

For instance, a thin, pretty woman in her 30s wearing a long white dress with flowers on it takes the stand, points at the defendant, and under oath says, “He is the man who entered my home without permission on May 1 around 11:00 a.m., pushed me down, and robbed me of the $2,500 I had in cash because I had just gotten my paycheck.”

Finding Frailty

Every witness has some frailty to expose. Finding out as much as possible about each witness is key. Perhaps the witness’ eyesight isn’t as good as it could be, therefore making a demonstration of their insufficient eyesight critical.

Perhaps the witness has a temper; getting a witness to act hostile in front of the jury can be very effective. Perhaps the witness has mental health issues or has been convicted of a crime. Perhaps the witness has a grudge against the accused giving a motive to lie. Perhaps the witness has a physical condition, the medication for which causes lapses in memory.

All of these frailties would call into question the reliability of the witness. This information can be gathered in many ways; a professional investigator can be hired, friends and coworkers of the witness can be interviewed and a search of the witness’ social media may reveal the answers needed. Every piece of information gathered about each witness is ammunition to be used on cross examination.

Internal Inconsistency

Even assuming the witness comes out of the investigation into their life without a scratch, inconsistencies inside the witness’ own version of events are often the most damning counter to their testimony. The witness will always testify to the day, time, and background of the incident, information you can get them to reaffirm on cross examination:

(Question) The crime occurred on May 1?
(Answer) Yes.
(Q) Around 11am?
(A) Yes.
(Q)You had gone home early that day?
(A) Yes.

All of which is likely to be information contained in the police report which the witness will have reviewed many times before trial. Once you have the witness agreeing to the basic facts, the questioning can get more specific.

(Q) You were working as a secretary at Smith & Smith at the time?
(A) Yes, for 5 years.
(Q) They pay very well, about $15 an hour for their secretaries?
(A) Yes.
(Q) At the time, you were working a lot because of a special project, 50 hours a week?
(A) Yes, I worked late a lot.
(Q) You were paid every two weeks?
(A) Yes.
(Q) Who actually signs the checks at your office?
(A) My manager Mr. Jones.

Once the witness has committed to answers in the before-mentioned background-type questions, then you can get to the point you want the jury to understand.

(Q) Would it surprise you that Mr. Jones said your company doesn’t hand out checks until the end of the day on payday?
(A) They must have handed them out early that day.
(Q) You said you were working late a lot because of a project, but that day you went home
early?
(A) I must have been tired that day.
(Q) Assuming you were working the 50 hours a week you claim, at $15 an hour, even with time and a half for the overtime, your paycheck would only have been $1650 for 2 weeks, not $2500 isn’t that true?
(A) It had to be $2500.
(Q) Because that’s what you told the police, $2500?
(A) Yes.
(Q) And you used that police report to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company, didn’t you?
(A) Yes.

Now the jury gets to start considering why this witness might not have been as trustworthy as she seemed at first, and the questioning would only get more specific as the testimony continued.

External Inconsistency

When one witness’ testimony differs from another witness’ testimony, the jury is often left trying to decide who to believe. Continuing with our example above, a defense witness takes the stand later and says “the defendant is my employee, I can tell you that on May 1 he was at work. Our work day is 8 to 5 with a 1 hour lunch between noon and 1pm. Our office is 10 miles from where the crime occurred.”

The argument can be made that this witness is more trustworthy than the first witness. Why? This witness has no stake in the outcome, she is just the defendant’s employer, not a family member, spouse or even a friend. Also, though the argument could be made that the defendant may have taken an early lunch, the crime is alleged to have occurred at 11:00 a.m. ten miles from where the defendant works. Wouldn’t the defendant have had to leave at 10:30 a.m. to commit the crime? Keep in mind, it is not the defendant’s job to prove he is innocent. The prosecution has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Wouldn’t it be reasonable that if the accused left work at 10:30 a.m. his boss would notice? Conflicts between two witnesses are very difficult for the jury to reconcile.

Focusing the jury away from the adverse eyewitness
Even after all testimony concludes, the task of discrediting an eyewitness continues during closing argument.

Not only would the deficiencies previously stated be concentrated on in closing, but additionally the closing argument should shift focus from what the prosecution presented to the jury (the eyewitness’ testimony) to instead what they have not presented. Was DNA provided? Fingerprints? Additional witnesses?

The jury should be left with the question of why there was a lack of corroboration for the mere word of one person whose frailties have already been exposed, whose testimony contradicted itself and contradicted the testimony of other more trustworthy witnesses.

No juror wants to be responsible for convicting an innocent person. If the eyewitness’ testimony is effectively attacked, each juror can be confident in voting Not Guilty.

This the kind of attack on eyewitness testimony that a good Nashville criminal defense lawyer should provide. This is the kind of defense work you receive from Horst Law. (615) 403-2971.


Our Nashville Sex Crimes Attorney Addresses Sentencing Parameters

Nashville Criminal Lawyer (2)Despite the best efforts of our Nashville sex crimes attorney, a jury might find you guilty of a sex-related offense. The judge will then sentence you, basing his or her decision on several factors. Criminal statutes generally include a range of sentences, including possible fines, community notification information and minimum and maximum sentences.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

The judge will review mitigating and aggravating factors and usually outline these factors when he or she announces the sentence in open court. Mitigating factors might include the defendant’s young age, lack of a criminal history, or the fact that he or she was influenced to commit a crime by someone older or more responsible. Aggravating factors include premeditation, seriousness of a crime or other considerations that might warrant a more severe penalty.

Federal and State Laws

The federal government, along with each state, has their own sentencing laws in place for sexual assault, along with specific sentencing ranges. For example, federal law requires judges to consider a defendant’s acceptance of responsibility for his or her actions along with the defendant’s criminal record. In a sexual assault case, the law allows for fines and includes a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The defendant must repay victims for any expenses that directly stem from the offense, including the following:

  • Emergency room visit
  • Medical treatment
  • Counseling
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Legal costs and
  • Related expenses.

Our Nashville sex crimes lawyer can provide you with specific details on how much restitution you will need to pay if applicable in your case.

State Examples

Sexual assault in New York is a class D felony. The sentencing judge can work within the predetermined parameters imposed by law. However, the judge sets an “indeterminate” sentence, meaning that it is not the exact sentence but a range of time somewhere between the very minimum and highest maximum. The exact sentence depends on the person’s behavior, along with other factors, while in custody. In New York, these time frames range from one year to seven years. The judge narrows down the sentence so that it falls within those parameters. On the other hand, in California, the courts can fine a person up to $10,000 for sexual assault, along with sentence him or her to two, three or four years in prison. The courts call this a “determinate” sentence since it refers to a specific prison sentence. Again, when deciding on a sentence, the judge looks at mitigating and aggravating factors, along with other considerations, before ruling on an exact sentence. Tennessee has established their own set of laws related to sexual assault offenses as well. For specific details on how these laws relate to your case, speak with our Nashville sex crimes attorney.

Call Our Nashville Sex Crimes Attorney

Horst Law can provide you with further information on mitigating and aggravating factors in your case. Call us at (615) 403-2971.


Our Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney Will Help Explain Miranda Rights

Nashville Criminal Defense AttorneyYour Nashville criminal defense attorney will help you to understand your Miranda rights.

A Nashville Criminal Attorney Can Explain How You Are Protected by Miranda Rights

Under Miranda, you have the right to remain silent and any statement you make can be used against you in a court of law. You also have the right to consult with an attorney and to have the attorney present while you are being interrogated. If you are not able to afford an attorney, you can be appointed one at no cost.

Understanding When Miranda Applies

Your Nashville criminal attorney will tell you that the police are required to administer the Miranda warnings at the time you are taken into custody and prior to conducting an interrogation. You will not necessarily be handcuffed and jailed to be considered “in custody.” If you have been arrested or your freedom of movement has been severely restricted, then you are viewed as in custody. If a reasonable individual does not feel free to walk away, then this is considered to be in custody. To invoke your Miranda rights, it is sufficient to say something akin to, “I am not answering any questions.” Simple silence is not enough. The optimal time to invoke your Miranda rights is right after they have been read to you and prior to answering any questions or making statements. You can assert these rights at any juncture when you are being questioned by the police even if you have responded to questions or made statements.

Understanding What Will Happen If Law Enforcement Does Not Read You Your Miranda Rights

If the officers do not read you the Miranda rights, statements you have made cannot be used as evidence in court. In addition, if the police find evidence because of a statement made prior to being Mirandized, this evidence will be tainted and can be excluded.

Contact An Experienced Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have questions about your Miranda rights, call (615) 403-2971 to speak to Nashville criminal defense attorney Brent Horst Attorney at Law.


How Does a Criminal Proceeding Work? Our Nashville Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain

Nashville Criminal Defense LawyersCriminal court procedures vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there is a basic sequence of events that will apply to almost all criminal proceedings. This process can be quite complex. As such, you should seek advice from a qualified Nashville criminal attorney right away.

Pre-trial Proceedings

After your arrest, you will make your first appearance before the judge. You will be told the charges against you and advised of your rights. The judge will likely schedule a future date for a preliminary hearing. As soon as possible after your arrest you should consult with a Nashville criminal defense lawyer.

At the preliminary hearing the judge will determine if there is probable cause to try you for the crime. In other words, the judge will decide whether the facts establish that a crime has been committed and that you committed the crime. Unless your case is dismissed for lack of probable cause, you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

If you plead guilty the judge will most likely set a future date for sentencing. If your plea is “not guilty,” the judge will set a trial date. In the meantime, you may be released on bail or released on your own recognizance. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, you may be sent back to jail to await your trial date. For obvious reasons, it is in your best interest to avoid pleading guilty. A skilled Nashville criminal defense lawyer can analyze the facts of your case and make a determination as to your best course of action.

During Trial

If your case is going to trial, the prosecution will pull out all of the stops to get a conviction and we will help you fight back. Attorney Brent Horst will try to seat the best jury possible and vigorously cross examine the prosecutor’s witness. After that we will present your defense case to the jury and deliver a powerful closing argument to convince the jury of your innocence. 

Hire an Experienced Nashville Criminal Attorney

Regardless of what stage your case is at or whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony criminal charges, we can help. Horst Law may be reached at (615) 403-2971 for a consultation.


Our Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Bail and Jail

Nashville Criminal Defense AttorneyNashville criminal defense attorney Brent Horst understands that being arrested is never a positive experience, and the defendant often feels intimidated during the booking process. Defendants have very few rights when being initially booked with the exception of notifying someone outside of the jail. Actually, depending on case circumstances, bail is often set before anyone is contacted on the outside because most courts have a set policy on bail and bond schedule amounts for typical cases. Cases involving extenuating or mitigating circumstances can take longer if the judge feels the defendant is a flight risk or multiple charges have been filed against the defendant. Conversely, bond amounts can also be lowered when the judge feels a particular defendant has minimal involvement in any criminal behavior.

Bail and the Bonding Process

Bailing out of jail is usually what occurs when a defendant is allowed to post 10% of the bond amount and is released. These defendants either have a clean criminal history, or their record has always indicated that they have appeared in court as ordered. The defendant’s ties to the community can matter also, with respect to length of time living in the region and local family. However, for those defendants who cannot qualify for bail, the state of Tennessee does utilize bonding agencies in case prosecution, and often even a defendant with an established criminal history can find a bonding agency. Having a reputable Nashville criminal defense lawyer can make a real difference when looking for a bonding agency because it can be seen as a character reference in some cases. Bondsmen can still request collateral when ensuring your court appearance as financial protection against failure to appear. In addition, a promissory note may also be required with a co-signatory when charges are serious enough to warrant a high bond level. Sometimes input from your Nashville criminal defense attorney and the bonding agency can result in a reduced bond amount or a surety bond.

Own Recognizance Release

Being released on your own recognizance is commonly done when the defendant is being charged with a minimal non-violent crime and there is no history of contempt of court or failure to appear. These are usually defendants who have a solid employment record or are attending school. Education requirements can be justification for a defendant to request work release just like employment, and many times the court will opt for a form of own recognizance release or lessened bond amounts. This also reserves the opportunity for a work release if an incarceration term is part of the punishment. Your Nashville criminal defense attorney can be instrumental in negotiating with the court for a bail release on your own recognizance when your counsel can demonstrate personal responsibility on your behalf.

Excessive Bail

While the United States Constitution literally states that bond amounts for a defendant cannot be excessive, judges still have significant power in latitude when setting bond levels. Multiple charges can support the judge combining the standard listed station house bond amounts. Bond amounts can also be elevated when aggravation charges can be applied, often times moving a misdemeanor charge into the felony category. Felony charges are much more serious in nature and the bond schedule amounts reflect that seriousness. This is especially true when it appears that the state has a very strong case. Sometimes your Nashville criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the court to allow release of some type that could also allow the defendant to work and earn resources necessary to defend the charge. It is clearly more difficult to defend charges while still being incarcerated because the defendant can provide more help to their legal counsel when released until the actual trial date.

Forms of Payment

The court can set the standard on the type of bond payment, including requiring bond be posted in cash for egregious criminal charges. This can also be done even when the defendant has no prior record. In addition, most 10% posted bond amounts are also done in cash because the payment is still processed through the bank. States like Tennessee that allow bail bondsmen rarely use the 10% standard because a bonding agency will usually charge 10-15% of the total bond amount as an administration fee for carrying the bond. The bonding agency then becomes a surety bond holder for the court, shifting the administrative burden to the bondsmen. This means that if you skip court, the bonding agency officers will also be looking for you as well as the local authorities.

Bond Reimbursement and Jail

Individuals who cannot meet the terms of bail will be lodged in jail until their arraignment date, and sometimes until their actual trial. Each court date is a formal opportunity for your legal counsel to request a change in bond requirements. Individuals who are required to post cash bond with the state will have the amount returned minus an administrative fee when the case is finally settled. Bonding agents do not refund required upfront payment because this becomes the bonding agency fee. Defendants who eventually receive jail terms are usually eligible for work release when appropriate, but the administrative fee for work release is not reimbursed. Always remember that work release is a privilege and can be easily revoked.

Contact a Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing a criminal charge in the Nashville area should contact Brent Horst Attorney at Law at (615) 403-2971 for a full evaluation of your criminal case.