FAQs – Nashville Criminal Lawyer

Criminal law is complex and there are numerous specific circumstances that need to be considered that will differ from case to case. However, some of the questions we receive most commonly are listed below. If your question is not answered here, call Horst Law at to speak with an attorney directly.

What are mandatory minimum sentences?

Mandatory minimum sentences refer to the penalties that the court must hand down if a person is convicted of certain offenses. Every felony offense under state law is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year in prison. Class A felonies, the most serious of offenses under state law, carry mandatory minimums of 15 years. However, it should be noted that these mandatory minimums could be elevated by certain factors. For instance, prior convictions or aggravating factors for some offenses may impose longer mandatory minimum sentences. In cases where an offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence, the courts do not have full discretion over the severity of a sentence and must at least hand down the minimum penalties that are mandated by state law.

Will I lose my license if I am convicted of a DUI?

If you get convicted of a DUI offense, yes, you will lose your driver’s license. The length of time it will be revoked, however, depends on the specifics of your case. For instance, if you have been charged with a first offense DUI, a conviction would mean your license would be revoked for up to a full year. If a person already has two or more prior DUIs, a new conviction may mean that his or her license will be revoked for anywhere from six to ten years. That being said, it is critical that you do everything you can to avoid this and the other serious consequences of a DUI conviction; the first thing you should do is to retain legal representation from a lawyer who is experienced in the field of DUI defense.

What is alleged with drug conspiracy charges?

Conspiracy charges allege that two or more people 1) have planned or facilitated the commission of a crime and 2) agreed that at least one person would actually commit that offense. That being said, conspiracy charges can be pursued even if the planned criminal offense is never committed as planned. When applied to drug cases, conspiracy charges allow the state and federal police to connect as many people as they believe to be connected to an alleged drug-related offense, even if their plan never actually came to fruition.

What is the difference between simple possession and possession with intent?

While simple possession alleges that an individual had a controlled substance for his or her own personal use, possession with intent further alleges the intent to sell, distribute, deliver, or even manufacture the controlled substance. Depending on the circumstances of an arrest, it is possible for a simple possession charge to be elevated to possession with intent simply because law enforcement believes that a person has more of the controlled substance than could conceivably be used by a single individual. Additionally, the presence of certain items—like small plastic bags, containers, or scales—might lead the district attorney to elevate a simple possession charge to a charge of possession with intent. As you might imagine, the penalties for each offense are very different; simple possession is usually a misdemeanor, and possession with intent is always a felony at both the state and federal level.

Can my drug charges be prosecuted in federal court?

Yes, drug charges that can be prosecuted at the state level can typically also be prosecuted at the federal level. However, the federal courts are not likely to take on simple possession charges or other lower-level offenses unless the arresting officer is a federal employee. For instance, if you are arrested for simple possession by a federal park ranger, your case is likely to go to the federal courts. Otherwise, the federal charges are usually reserved for cases in which it is alleged that the suspect crossed state lines during the commission of the offense or in cases that are thought to be sufficiently high profile. That being said, the penalties that could be handed down with a federal conviction are more severe than those that can be handed down under state law.

I’ve been charged with a crime. Now what?

Being formally charged with a crime is scary, but the most important thing to remember is to remain calm. Remember that your innocence is presumed until proven otherwise. Retaining your composure and having faith that everything will be okay is the best thing you can do for your morale and mental state.

After being charged with a crime, you should find time to write down the events that occurred to the best of your ability to recall them. This initial summary must contain many details and should be written while they are still fresh in your memory. Next, you will want to contact a lawyer who practices criminal law and see what legal actions you may be able to take to defend yourself. Do not answer questions from the police without an attorney present.

How do I post bail?

Before one can post bail, the bail amount first needs to be set. For common crimes, bail is typically set within the same day of the arrest. However, police have the option to have a judge set the bail amount, which can take up to five days. Once the amount is set, the payer of the bail has several options in which to make the payment. Cash, check, using property as collateral, or bail bonds are all accepted methods of payment. Bail bonds can be purchased from bondsman and typically cost only 10% of the bail amount. However, bail bonds can end up becoming more costly than paying bail if the arrested person fails to appear in court. Cities only use bail as a tool to ensure an individual will appear in court. Bail is refunded back to the payer once the arrested person appears in court.

What does it mean to be certified by The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification Board?

The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) is the oldest and largest of the seven private board certifications that are recognized by the American Bar Association. These proven attorneys must undergo a comprehensive screening of credentials that includes documentation of their experience, references, and an examination of their knowledge. Furthermore, applicants must seek approval from the NBLSC’s standards committee by submitting records of any disciplinary matters that he or she has been involved with. Because of the stringent application process, there are only around 2000 lawyers across the nation that can boast NBLSC certification. All board certified lawyers are expected to uphold strong character and the reputation of the NBLSC.

Can I appeal the verdict of a sex offense I was convicted of?

If you were convicted of a sex crime, you can petition the jury’s verdict through an appeals process. This would be done by convincing an appellate court that your trial was unfair because the trial judge made procedural errors, there was insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict, or the trial court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case. In the appeals process, you would not attempt to reargue the case, present new witnesses, or raise a new issue that wasn’t discussed in the original trial. However, a “writ of habeas corpus” may be petitioned for by the defendant—now called the “appellant”—if they have a claim of juror misconduct, newly discovered evidence, failure of the prosecutor to submit evidence, or ineffective counsel. A conviction is only overturned if a trial error impedes upon a “substantial right” of the appellant, which is usually a high standard.

Will I be on the sex offender registry?

Whether you are labeled a “sex offender” depends on the laws of the state you were convicted in or reside. Whether a sexual act is a sex crime also varies according to state. Sometimes a judge will exempt juveniles from being put into the sex offender registry. However, almost always, those convicted of a sex crime after 1970 must register—and additionally re-register—every year. In Tennessee, sex offenses include rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, sexual battery, child molestation, solicitation, prostitution, indecent exposure, unlawful surveillance, incest, and child pornography, among others. Additionally, some states require registration if convicted of knowing or intentional transmission of an STD, consensual sex between teenagers, or public urination. If you are convicted of a sex crime, you must additionally register as a sex offender in every state you move to.

What prohibitions are there for convicted sex offenders?

As a convicted sex offender in Tennessee, you must not go within 1,000 feet of any former victims’ property line. If your victim was a minor, you are prohibited from living with a minor (unless you have parental rights and your child was not a victim) or establishing residence, employment, or going within 1,000 feet of any school, daycare, child care facility, park, playground, or recreation center. Additionally, your status as a sex offender will be made public information on the state’s web databases and other community sites. This is why it’s incredibly important to fight sex offense charges or appeal your conviction.