Charged with a crime?


When your liberty is at stake, hire a serious lawyer.


At Balestrini, Barnes, Jaber & Wood, PLLC most of our practice is dedicated to criminal defense. All of our attorneys started their legal careers at 201. We’ve honed our craft over years of dedicated practice and have successfully defended thousands of Memphians accused of crimes. When we say we know the criminal practice better than anyone, you can rest assured we mean it. From motion practice, negotiations, guilty pleas, probable cause hearings, bench trials and jury trials, we’ve mastered every aspect of our criminal practice.

Criminal Defense

Facing a criminal charge in Memphis, TN? We’re the criminal defense attorneys you want to talk to.

Our law firm practices criminal defense everyday. We don’t dabble in 201, we are 201. If you’re charged with a crime who do you really want in your corner, the civil lawyer with no contacts and no knowledge of courtroom process, or the law firm that spends every morning in front of a criminal court judge? Our law firm is streamlined for criminal practice. We get to court early and get our clients taken care of. If you’re wondering whether to hire us we offer a free consultation with no commitment required. We also offer payment plans for clients who want the best representation but need a little help with financing.


Do I need an attorney?


If you're asking that question, then you probably do. Our law firm offers a free consultation in most instances. We offer this to help you better answer that question.


I was charged with a crime, do I need a criminal defense attorney?


You certainly need an attorney if you're charged with a crime. The State of Tennessee has unlimited resources to prosecute you with. In addition to unlimited funds, they have over 100 prosecutors in Shelby County alone, along with hundreds of investigators and police personnel. You'll need to hire an experienced attorney to best advise you on how to proceed against such a formidable force. Essentially, the sooner you hire an attorney, the better.


I want to hire an attorney but I'm nervous I'll be overcharged.


One of the hardest parts of an attorney’s job is setting a fair fee for services. You'll have to ask yourself, “what is this service worth to me?” After all, would you price shop for a doctor before surgery?


What does Balestrini, Barnes, Jaber & Wood, PLLC, specialize in?


We best specialize in our clients. We know our clients and welcome them to get to know us. While we don’t handle every type of legal issue, for those we don't we can recommend an attorney who will give your case the attention and expertise it deserves.


I was pulled over for not wearing my seat belt and then given a citation for something else.


This happens quite often. This is an issue that is best addressed in a document, and potentially a hearing, on a motion to suppress. An officer has to have probable cause to stop your vehicle. Without probable cause to make the stop, any evidence recovered as a result may be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and excluded from a trial in the case. In many cases, without that evidence, the State cannot carry their burden of proof and must dismiss the case. A “no seatbelt” charge is a quick way around probable cause. Essentially the officer pulls you over for breaking the seatbelt law and anything else such as a "strong odor of marijuana," or an open bottle of liquor in the floor board gives the officer a reason to detain you past the point of writing a citation for not wearing a seatbelt.


I was pulled over for speeding.


Our office has handled thousands of traffic tickets. We have an excellent record at getting tickets dismissed so they do not appear on your driving record and negatively impacting your insurance.


I was pulled over and the police officer asked me to sign a citation, should I have done that?


Yes. By signing the citation, the only thing you are agreeing to is to appear in court on your scheduled court date. If you do not sign the officer must arrest you and you will have to post a bond in order to secure your appearance at court. Signing the citation is not an admission of guilt. Not signing the citation is also not a proclamation of your innocence.


What is the difference between a ticket and a citation?


Generally, a ticket refers to what is technically called a “long citation.” These are generally written for minor traffic offenses in violation of a city ordinance. Citations are actually called “Misdemeanor Citation in Lieu of Arrest.” This is a charging instrument used to charge a defendant with a criminal offense. Tennessee law provides for when a citation may be issued instead of actually arresting a defendant. The failure of an officer to issue a citation by mistakenly arresting the defendant may be grounds to have the case dismissed.


The judge told me if I received another citation I would go to jail.


Tennessee law provides that an individual cannot be free without bond if they have more than one active criminal case. Technically, if you have an active criminal case, the officer is supposed to arrest you instead of issuing a citation. However, Memphis Police don’t have the manpower or resources to research whether every potential defendant currently has an active case. Therefore, when you appear in court after the second citation, the judge must order your arrest. As a side note, driving on a suspended license is a criminal charge that carries up to a year in jail. Two citations for this offense will force a judge to set a bond, requiring you to go to jail.


The judge told me I will have to make a bond when I come back to court.


There could be several reasons for this. First, you may have gotten a second criminal citation without having ever posted a bond. If this is the case, a bond will have to be posted on that next court date. Second, the judge may have ordered you to hire an attorney. Failing to do so places you in contempt of court.


I was charged with a crime in Memphis.


Shelby County has criminal court on every non-weekend and non-holiday, essentially five days a week. If you're arrested, you will likely have an arraignment date on the first date following your arrest. If you received a citation, two dates will be listed on the citation: the first is for booking and processing; the second is the arraignment date. In either instance, you should immediately contact a lawyer so you will understand your rights.


My first court date is tomorrow, what should I expect?


The first court date is called an “arraignment.” On this day, the judge will tell you what you're charged with and inquire as to whether you have hired an attorney. If you have not, the court will afford you the opportunity to do so.


I committed a crime, can I just plead guilty?


In Shelby County courts, they will not allow you to plead guilty without an attorney. When you plead guilty, you forfeit many rights afforded to you by the U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution. Even if a court allows you to do so, we strongly advise that you consult with an attorney before pleading guilty.


I committed a crime, can I negotiate with the prosecutor myself?


You can if you waive, or give up, your right to counsel, but we would strongly advise against this. The prosecutors in Shelby County are attorneys that handle hundreds of cases every day. You are at a serious disadvantage by negotiating your case without legal aid.


What do Memphis lawyers charge?


Different lawyers charge different rates. Those rates vary depending on your case. Our law firm sets its rates based upon several factors. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. At this consultation, we'll tell you what the fee is.


I want a cheap lawyer, but I want a good lawyer too, is this possible?


To a certain degree, you are going to get what you pay for. You may want to buy a cheap car, but you can’t expect that car to not break down on you. You may regret that cheap lawyer when another attorney a few years down the road shows you how you could have gotten your case dismissed.


The more a lawyer charges the better they are, is this true?


The quality of an attorney depends on the attorney. There are attorneys that charge less and still achieve great results. That being said, I have seen some mighty bad attorneys charge enormous fees.


Your law firm is located in midtown and I cannot drive.


In certain circumstances, we will offer your consultation by telephone. We strive to establish a relationship with our clients. This is best done with an in person discussion about your case.


Do you practice in Germantown?


Yes. Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in all Tennessee courts. We frequently represent clients in all municipal courts and in counties surrounding Shelby County, even so far as Madison County.


My driver’s license is suspended, why?


We often see clients who have gotten so far in the hole on unpaid traffic tickets and fines that their license gets suspended. If you find out that your license is suspended, it is an issue that is best addressed very quickly. Our attorneys can tell you why your license is suspended, formulate a plan to reinstate your license, and assist in the execution of that plan.


Tennessee just passed a new law for drivers who do not have insurance, what does it mean?


Essentially, if you do not have the minimum insurance, you cannot have a drivers license. Anytime you are cited and found guilty of not having insurance, a report is sent to the Tennessee Department of Safety. They will then send you a notice to provide them with your insurance information. If you do not, they will suspend your license.


I was charged with DUI.


A DUI charge can be devastating to people of certain professions. While it is only a misdemeanor it can never be expunged making it the most detrimental misdemeanor charge there is. DUI defense is highly technical and requires a clear understanding of the science and procedures used by police offers to aid in your conviction.


I was charged with domestic assault.


A domestic assault conviction can cost you your right to own a gun. It is important to hire an experienced domestic assault attorney in order to avoid a possible conviction.


I was charged with theft of property.


Theft is one of the most common criminal charges in Memphis, TN. If you are charged with theft, you’ll want the help of an experienced Memphis theft attorney. Depending on your criminal history, most theft cases can be negotiated to an amicable resolution.


I was charged with driving on a suspended license.


Driving of a suspended license is the most charged crime in Shelby County. While it is considered a "small" charge by many in Memphis it does carry up to a year in jail. If you are charged with driving on a suspended license you’ll want the help of a Memphis criminal defense attorney.


I have a warrant for my arrest.


If you have a warrant for your arrest or a bench warrant for missing court you need to call us immediately.


What is a misdemeanor?


A misdemeanor is what used to be referred to as a petty crime. It is any crime which carries a sentence less than 1 year.


What is a felony?


A felony is any crime which carries a sentence of one year or more.


How many misdemeanor classifications are there?


There are three classifications of misdemeanor: A, B, and C, with A being the most serious and C being the least serious.


How many felony classifications are there?


There are five classifications of felony: A, B, C, D, and E, with A being the most serious and E being the least serious.


What is probation?


Probation is one form of sentencing alternative to jail time. It is not permitted on a sentence of more than ten years. Also, a list of criteria is examined to determine whether a defendant is a good candidate for probation. Your attorney should be able to go over this criteria with you. Probation will carry with it certain requirements, such as full time employment, community service, and drug screens, to name a few.


Can I avoid jail time with probation?


If your sentence qualifies and you are found to be a good candidate, yes. However, if you violate probation, it is usually difficult to avoid jail time.


What crimes are eligible for probation?


Any crime which carries a sentence of less than ten years, with a few exceptions.


What crimes are not eligible for probation?


First degree murder; felony murder; second degree murder; aggravated and especially aggravated robbery; aggravated and especially aggravated kidnapping; especially aggravated, aggravated, and simple rape; statutory rape by an authority figure;  aggravated sexual battery; aggravated and simple rape of a child; aggravated arson; aggravated child abuse; sexual exploitation of a minor involving more than one hundred images; aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving more than twenty-five images; or especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.


What is a sentencing range?


Each class of crime carries with it a sentencing range, a minimum and maximum sentence.


I have a conviction but it was over ten years ago.


Often, we have clients say they don't have a conviction because it was over 10 years ago. To be clear, once you are convicted of a crime it remains on your record for the rest of your life. Some crimes are eligible for expungement after 5 years if certain criteria are met: namely you don't have any other convictions on your record.


What is a sentencing hearing?


A sentencing hearing is the procedure which takes place after a finding of guilt. The hearing is performed to determine what the actual sentence will be, such as probation, diversion, or jail. Several factors are used to make this determination. Your attorney should be able to discuss these factors with you.


What is a pre-sentence report?


A pre-sentence report is a report made by the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole which examines many of these sentencing factors. A defendant will participate in an interview with a background officer. The background officer will verify the information obtained during that interview as well as pull a criminal history on the defendant. This report will be submitted to the court and used to assist in a sentencing hearing.


What is a “time cut?”


This is legally referred to as a petition to suspend the remainder of a sentence (PSRS). These are filed by someone who is incarcerated and is seeking to be released on probation or community corrections. A defendant must make a strong showing of effort to be rehabilitated while in jail. Upon filing this petition, the court will review whether the inmate is now a good candidate for probation.


What is community corrections?


Community corrections is an alternative sentence involving very intense supervision but may allow the defendant to receive jail credit without incarceration ("street credit"). It usually involves a minimum of three probation officer meetings a week, several hours of program work, and a strict curfew. Community corrections may permit you to earn jail credit while on release or it may only be a condition of probation.


Can my probation be modified?


Some circumstances may give rise to changing the probation requirements. Some modifications can be done through the probation officer, but some will have to be changed by order of the court.


What is determinant release?


Determinant release is a statutory permitted release from jail on probation. It can only be done on felonies where the sentence is two years or less. If an inmate who qualifies maintains good behavior for the first 30-60 days of incarceration, the correctional center can elect to release that inmate on probation. Supervision will then transfer to the State of Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.


What is a “RED” date?


"RED" stands for Release Eligibility Date. This is the first date in which the parole board may consider an inmate eligible for release. It is calculated as a percentage of the total sentence. The percentage is determined at sentencing and is based on the type of crime and the defendant's criminal history. The more felonies, the higher the percentage.


I’m innocent and I want a trial.


We are not in the business of pleading innocent people guilty. However, the first step of a criminal proceeding is to investigate the facts. After that, we can start knocking the legs out from under the prosecution's case. Often, we can achieve the desired result without a trial and upon motion hearings.


The point is that we do not just walk in and demand a trial. If that were the case, we would go in at a serious disadvantage. At all times, it is our client’s decision whether to go to trial. If after investigation and consultation, you want to go to trial, we will have all of the information we need to give you the representation needed to get results.


Should I ask for a jury trial?


If you want a trial, you have the choice of a bench (judge only) trial, or a jury trial. In most cases, you will want a jury trial. If your case involves only a complex legal issue and not on the believability of facts, it may be best to ask for a judge to hear it. Their legal expertise and training will allow them to make the right decision where the defense is purely a legal one. However, this is usually not the case.


Will the prosecutor punish me if I want a trial?


On one hand, the prosecutor is not in charge of punishing you if you are unsuccessful at trial. On the other hand, the prosecutor usually does try for every sentencing enhancement available if you are sentenced after a trial. However, the judge is the person who will select the sentence after a trial. They will apply several sentencing factors. The list of these factors is quite extensive.


Juvenile Court


Juvenile Court plays many roles. First, it adjudicates all infractions by persons under the age of 18, from speeding tickets through murder. Second, it handles cases involving minors, generally, which are not already before Circuit or Chancery Court as part of a divorce or separation proceeding. This means that if you have a child support, parental, or custody issue that has not previously been raised as part of a marriage, it will be handled here. Finally, it handles all child dependency and neglect issues whether initiated by a private citizen or the Department of Children’s Services.


Why is my child in juvenile court?


Your child is in juvenile court because they are under 18 year old. The legal age of majority is 18 in Tennessee. Your child is there because the law presumes that a person under the age of 18 may have some mental deficit due to his age which may involve some special accommodations. The juvenile court is designed to make those accommodations.


Will my child be sent to 201?


Whether your child is eventually adjudicated as an adult in a delinquency proceeding (criminal action), depends on several factors. From the prosecutor’s point of view, they will look at his/her prior delinquency history. If he/she has been repeatedly delinquent, the prosecutor will be more likely to request a transfer to adult court (201). They have a system of points for this process with various prior delinquencies accounting for a certain number. Once a certain point limit is reached, they will then recommend transfer to adult court. You will need an experienced juvenile court attorney to examine whether your child will be subject to transfer.


Does my child need a lawyer in juvenile court?


Yes. Every child is entitled to an attorney. After all, children have rights, too. Every child in juvenile court gets an attorney. If they cannot, or his parents cannot afford one, the court will appoint an attorney for the child.

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Balestrini, Barnes, Jaber & Wood, PLLC


Minglewood Plaza

1555 Madison Ave, Ste 202

Memphis, TN 38104


(901) 578-1515 P

(901) 578-2929 F