Tennessee Courts

Tennessee Courts: General Sessions Court

The Tennessee Court of general sessions is normally referred to as the court of first resort.  It is a high volume court that is usually conducted by only one judge in rural areas and several judges in metropolitan areas.  When a person is arrested for DUI, the first court they will be ordered to appear in is the general sessions court.  While in that court, a person is able to negotiate with the prosecutor, enter a plea of guilty, or have a preliminary hearing to determine whether your case should be bound over to the grand jury.  This court does not conduct jury trials or handle felony dispositions.  The sole purpose of this court is to reduce the volume of cases required to be heard in the circuit court.

Tennessee Courts: Circuit Court

The Tennessee circuit courts are the courts of record for the State of Tennessee.  It is a court designed to hear motions and conduct jury trials.  Most circuit courts will have only one judge or a rotation of several different judges within the judicial district.  Everything is handled in circuit court, including appeals from general sessions court.  If you are arrested for DUI, it is the court in which you would have your jury trial.  Although the volume is way lower in this court, the process takes longer because the record has to be preserved in every case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals

If there is a defect in the proceeding in Circuit Court, either you or the district attorney may have your case appealed and taken before the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.  The court is made up of a panel of three judges that hear arguments from both sides.  Once both sides publish briefs and make their respective arguments, the appellate court makes a decision to either uphold the circuit court's ruling or to overturn the circuit court's ruling.  Either decision may result in your case being remanded back to circuit court.  Once the case is sent back to circuit court, it is that court's job to make a ruling consistent with the appellate court's opinion.

The Tennessee Supreme Court

If you or the State disagree with the decision of the appellate court, you have the additional option of appealing your case all the way to the state supreme court.  Your attorney will file all proper notices and briefs.  Once the highest court in the state looks at the case, they decide whether or not to take your case.  If they decide to take your case, then the decision of all lower courts could be overturned.  However, if they decide to deny taking your case, then you are bound by the decision of the appellate court.  The Tennessee Supreme Court also provides a good amount of legal information for everyone through their website.