Accused not ‘served’ sworn warrant; must go to court to get it

Jon Lujman and other accused of crimes are not easily able to obtain “a copy” of criminal affidavits describing their crimes. (Photo David Tulis)
Arrested and bound to his house, JImmy Lee Moore on St, Paul Street in Eastdale ;is unable to go to sessions court downtown to find out the nature and cause of a criminal matter against him. (Photo David Tulis)

It’s not good enough, but it’s legal. It’s legal for the State of Tennessee to require criminal defendants such as Jimmy Lee Moore and Jon Luman to go to the sessions court to get copies of the written accusations against them.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

It’s not required that these criminal defendants be given a copy of the charges against them, with a sworn affidavit narrating their alleged crimes. It’s not required, I should specify, that the system should reach out to them to give it to them. It is merely required that the affidavit be on file and that the document be given to them when they come seeking it.

That is the word from the chief magistrate in Hamilton County. Lorrie Miller is new on the job and quick in responding to a query about the lack of a charging instrument in so many court appearances in Hamilton County.

“The rule doesn’t require defendant be given a copy,” she says.

The copies are available to anyone by going to the General Sessions Criminal Clerk’s office and requesting them.  The paperwork is scanned which takes some time. I advise defendants who request copies to check with the clerk’s office after lunch on the next business day.  If they remain in custody, I advise them they can ask their attorney to get the documents for them.

In other words, people who appear in court mystified as to the charges, have failed to reach out to the court, to go to the court and get the accusations against them. Though the judges and the police may have put these people in jail until they make bond, it is not required that the allegations in writing be given to them there.

It is not convenient and it is not going to happen.

If you are accused of a crime in Hamilton County and Chattanooga, it is up to you to sniff out the document narrating your offense under statute or ordinance.

If you sue me for a civil wrong in civil court, I am served the paper, including the suit and summons. A sheriff’s process server brings the documents to my door; that’s called legal service.

Serve = write, file in cabinet

In a criminal matter, however, the state puts itself under no obligation to serve its claims upon its victim. The victim must go to the state’s court and get a copy. The word “serve” means not serve, but write and hold. The judge signs the warrant, and tucks it away in a file.

There appears to be no system in place to inform criminal defendants of this necessity. They have to figure it out for themselves.

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