Free advice…

Five things to know about giving a statement to police.

The short answer is NO! Never. The rules for police questioning are so one-sided and so unfair that it can only go badly for the person being questioned. This is why the right to remain silent and not answer questions is one of the most sacred and fundamental rights that our founding fathers put into the Bill of Rights. Here are the most important reasons that you should never talk to the police unless your lawyer is present.

Remember that in a case of the government vs. a citizen, the government writes the rules of procedure and evidence and passes laws that benefit the government to maintain the imbalance of power. The attorneys of the Working Law Firm can help you balance the odds. Here are five things to know before speaking to police about why you should hire an attorney.

First – You Cannot Help Yourself

Anything that you say in your favor or in your own defense that actually helps you cannot be used in a court of law. Any statement that helps a suspect is considered unreliable self-serving hearsay and is excluded from the trial as hearsay. Therefore, you cannot say anything that will help you in the long run. Why say anything at all?

Second – You Can Only Hurt Yourself

Anything that you say can and will be used against you. That means that anything that you say that hurts your defense and helps the government to convict you will be used at the trial. To sum up, anything that helps the government and hurts your case will be used at trial, but statements that help you and hurt the government’s case will not be heard by the jury. You can only hurt yourself by talking, so why speak to the police?

Third – You Are Outmatched

The meeting is a total mismatch. Police detectives are seasoned interrogators who are sent to learn advanced interrogation techniques in order to coerce suspects into giving an incriminating statement. Many citizens do not even know they are being manipulated by a seasoned professional. One police tactic called the Reid technique allows police to slip in information about the case in questions they ask. When a person responds by talking about the information they were just given by the police, they are arrested for knowing information that only someone at the scene of the crime would know.

Fourth – Police Are Allowed to Lie

The United States Supreme Court has stated that police are allowed to lie to a person being questioned. Not only are police allowed to lie, they do lie quite often to get a person being questioned to say something incriminating. Police use false promises of leniency and tell people that if the person will tell the police what they want to hear, the police can help that person get a lighter sentence or easier treatment. It is a total lie. The police almost never help a suspect get lighter treatment. The police can lie and feed the suspect information, and then arrest that person when they repeat back information that the police want to hear.

Fifth – This is Not a Game – It is Your Life

If I was to tell you that you could have a meeting with a highly skilled opponent and that person was allowed to lie to you, and if you said anything good it wouldn’t matter, but if you said something bad you could go to prison for the rest of your life? Would that be something you might be interested in? Of course not!! Don’t call the police back. Call the attorneys of the Working Law Firm.

The short answer is that a misdemeanor is punished by less than a year in prison, and a felony is punished by one year in prison or more. Because class ‘A’ misdemeanors are punished by less than twelve months in jail, they are often referred to as 11-29 offenses, which is short for 11 months and 29 days (one day less than one year on prison). In Memphis, misdemeanors are usually handled in the General Sessions Criminal Court. Felonies are only in the General Sessions Court for about two months, and then move into the Criminal Court (known in rural jurisdictions as the Circuit Court).

There are three levels of misdemeanor offenses in Tennessee: Classes A, B, and C. There are six levels of felony offenses in Tennessee: A, B, C, D, E, and M, which is the classification for first-degree murder punishable by life in prison or a capital sentence. Each classification of offenses carries a different range of punishment, and the attorneys of the Working Law Firm can help you no matter what the charge.

Felonies often carry additional penalties that can have longer lasting consequences. First, any person convicted of a felony can no longer carry any firearm, or even ammunition. This even prohibits possession of a hunting rifle. Possessing a firearm as a felon is a separate crime in both state and federal court carrying up to ten years in prison. A felony also means a loss of voting rights. Voting as a convicted felon is also a separate crime, however, voting rights can eventually be restored with the help of an attorney filing the proper paperwork.

A felony conviction can also make it extremely difficult to get a job especially in a licensed profession. Careers from being a masseuse or cosmetologist, to an accountant or insurance agent require that the State perform a background check and determine that the candidate being licensed is of suitable character. The licensing process can be very difficult with a felony conviction and will probably also require the help of an attorney.

Although felonies usually carry more serious long-term consequences, certain misdemeanors convictions can also have a serious future impact. Any domestic violence conviction also carries a revocation of gun ownership rights. A drug conviction, even a misdemeanor marijuana conviction can render a person ineligible to receive student loans for a college education.

Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, hire the attorneys of the Working Law Firm to protect your freedom, and your future.

Every day, our firm receives calls about issues between landlords and tenants. We have heard countless accounts of landlords and property owners failing to maintain a property, attempting to improperly evict a tenant, attempting to charge tenants exorbitant fines/charges/fees, or harassing tenants about rent when the landlord has failed to do his/her part.

Fortunately, the Tennessee Legislature has provided us with the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. This act applies to any county in Tennessee with more than 68,000 people, which includes Shelby County. The Act has wonderful provisions that protect Tenants and Landlords from common abuses of the system. For instance:

  • A mandatory 5 day grace period after rent is due before it is late.
  • Late fees cannot exceed 10% of past due rent.
  • Specific procedures for inspection and determining damage to property.
  • Specific procedures on how to handle security deposits.

These and many other protections are available under this act, yet many landlords still get away with fraudulent and predatory practices because most tenants are not represented by council. We see too many cases where our tenants did not hire an attorney to fight their landlord and to go to trial, and ended up with massive judgments against them. In some of these cases, we’ve been able to appeal the case and reduce, or completely remove the judgment against our clients based on the provisions in this statute.

Has your property been seized by the State of Tennessee in connection to an alleged crime? Here is a brief explanation of the process, and just what we can do about it:

Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-33-101 allows the state of Tennessee to seize forfeit vehicles used in Robberies, Burglaries, Thefts, Sexual crimes, and various other crimes.

The State of Tennessee can also seize and forfeit almost all types of property associated with the use, sale, possession, or manufacturing of illegal drugs under Tennessee Code Annotated § 53-11-451.

Once the state has seized the property, you only have 30 days to file a petition claiming the property. Filing the petition requires a $350 cash bond. Once the petition and bond have been filed, the case is set for hearing. At that time, you will be expected to negotiate with the state for your property. The state will generally offer to let you buy back your car or other property seized by them. The State generally will not negotiate the return of seized cash. You should never attempt to enter these negotiations without an attorney.

If you are unable to come to some agreement at the initial setting, the case is then reset for an official hearing. During this hearing, the state only has to prove that it is more likely than not, that the assets were related to criminal activity from the statutes above. This standard is much lower than the standard for being convicted of a crime, and you may have your property taken without ever being convicted of a crime.

The procedures in these cases are confusing, complicated, and designed to make it difficult to get your property returned to you. You need an experienced attorney who has handled civil asset forfeitures in the past. All of our attorneys have experience with Civil Asset Forfeitures and can help you get your property back.

A trend that we have noticed lately is that many police officers have started having drivers exit their vehicle during normal traffic stops for things like speeding or seat belt violations. Under most of the case law, this is entirely permissible up to a certain extent. Having a person step out of the vehicle during a lawful stop is considered a de minimus or small intrusion. An officer can legally ask you to step out of a vehicle and even frisk you while they are stopping you for a speeding ticket.

Here is the important thing that we tell our clients, comply with the officers as far as your license, registration and insurance when being stopped for a minor traffic violation, but the traffic stop technically ends when the citation is given. Our general advice is to never consent to a search. The officers do not have approval of negotiating power in a court case, and you will not help your position by allowing them to search your effects. We have had cases where the officers claimed that they received consent to search after giving the citation. The case law in this area is still developing, but “traffic stops must be temporary and no longer than necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” That basically means that, while an officer has you pulled over to give you a ticket, any investigation or other actions must be done in the time frame that it takes to give you the ticket. In Tennessee, when an officer stops a vehicle and develops new suspicions of another crime, the officer has to diligently pursue a means to confirm that new suspicion. This becomes tricky where the officer issues the ticket, then asks to search. Arguably, by giving the ticket and returning the Defendant’s license the officer ended the stop, and asking to search is objectively unreasonable. Such a scenario was mentioned in State v. Donaldson, 380 S.W.3d 86, 96 (Tenn. 2012). The counter to this, which the State, generally argues is that, after returning the citation, the interaction between the officer and the Defendant is merely consensual. This area of argument is still fairly unsettled. So, in this situation, simply decline to answer all questions about searches, and do not consent to a search of your vehicle. Our attorneys have been attempting these post-citations in the general sessions courts with limited success. If you have been involved in this situation, you want someone on your side who knows where the cases side on this issue, and how to artfully argue the law for you.

Shelby County has a very busy and confusing criminal court process that happens mostly at 201 Poplar. This process can be very confusing not only to our clients or other defendants, but for families as well as new attorneys. In this article, we will try to walk you through most of the process so you know what to expect.

The majority of defendants in Shelby County are arrested and brought to 201 Poplar for booking and processing. Usually, they are brought to court the following day, or make bond and are scheduled a court date. This begins the court process. Whether the crime charged is a felony or a misdemeanor, the case will almost always start in General Sessions. There are also General Sessions and municipal courts in Bartlett, Collierville, and Germantown which may handle misdemeanor cases or hear felony cases for the preliminary hearing. Our attorneys practice in all of these courts.

General Sessions
The General Sessions courts have jurisdiction to hear and try misdemeanor cases, and are able to hear preliminary hearings and bond hearings for defendants charged with a felony. At 201, the General Sessions courts are all on the first floor, down in “The Pit” below the escalators. We try to give our clients practical advice. You should always try to be at court by 9:00 a.m., possibly earlier because the line at the public entrance can have a lengthy line. If your case is called and you are not present, the Judge may seek to revoke your bond. If you arrive and your attorney is not there yet, do not panic. Too often we have clients call before court even opens to make sure we will be present. Worrying about your case is completely understandable, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process. If we have been retained, we will be there, though perhaps not right at 9:00. If your case is a misdemeanor case, we can almost always get it settled during the general sessions process, though for some cases, like DUIs it can be better to take the case to the grand jury. You want to have your attorney paid before your court date so that you can resolve your case easily.
Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is normally the first major hearing in any case. During the preliminary hearing, the State has the burden to show to the court that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the Defendant may have committed the crime. If the Defendant is in custody, and the judge finds probable cause, the Defendant is held in custody until the case is bound over to the grand jury. If the case is dismissed, the Defendant is released, but may still be indicted.

Bond Hearing
In Tennessee, a Defendant has a right to a bond hearing in all cases except for capital cases, and may have the bond adjusted if he can show a change in circumstance. Often what happens is the facts at the preliminary hearing show the true strength of the State’s case, and the Defense attorney can ask for an adjusted bond. This is not always the case, but it can really help to get you out of jail. You may also seek to adjust your bond upstairs. Our attorneys handle many bond hearings, and can assist you with this process.

It is possible that, even on a felony case, an agreement can be worked out between the State and a Defendant in General Sessions. This agreement cannot be finalized in General Sessions so the Defendant must waive the preliminary hearing and agree to an information. An information is when the Defendant submits to skip the grand jury process, and to have the charges brought in Criminal Court (“upstairs”) so that the case can be resolved quickly. Once an information is filed, the case does not take long to be resolved.

The Grand Jury/Indictment
Following the preliminary hearing, most felony cases and some misdemeanor cases where the Defendant has waived the jurisdiction of the General Sessions Court, are bound over to the grand jury. The grand jury is comprised of a pool of regular jury members which meet in a secret hearing. The Defendant is not entitled to be present at this hearing. If the Grand Jury finds probable cause, it will submit an indictment formally charging the Defendant with a crime.

Bond Arraignment
Once you are indicted, most people get a letter in the mail telling them that they have been indicted and when their court date will be. Others are arrested and brought back down to 201. The first setting is generally your bond arraignment where the judge asks if you have retained an attorney. Most judges will not set several bond arraignments without special circumstances. If you do not retain an attorney after the first setting or two, the Judge may revoke your bond and appoint a public defender. If you have an attorney, this is when the attorney will begin negotiating with the State and requesting discovery. Your attorney will likely handle the arraignment and enter a formal plea of not guilty for you.

Report Days
Generally, most settings between the bond arraignment and trial are the report settings. On these days, your attorney will show up and discuss the case with you as well as the prosecutors. Then they will speak to the judge and give the judge of report as to where the parties are in the case and if they expect a resolution to be reached. You still need to be at court at 9:00 a.m. on these days, even though it may seem routine. This is the majority of the process up to trial which will not be discussed in this article.

Our attorneys are experts in this process and can guide you through it in a professional, but understanding manner. We know what it is like to be new to the process, and will work diligently to fight for the rights of you or your family member.

The Working Law Firm in the news…

Posted 10:16 pm, November 6, 2014, by Jessica Gertler

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An East Memphis woman said she’s living in a crime scene after finding blood, skin, and bullet holes in her new rental home.

After doing some digging, she found out the place she calls home is the same house where a man was brutally murdered.

Police say two months ago, Michael Wilson, Jr., killed his roommate, then chopped up the body inside the home on Dunn.

Read full story

Posted Jan 12, 2015 by Samantha Bryson

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich asked Monday to be removed from the murder case of Noura Jackson at the same hearing in which defense attorneys asked the judge to disqualify anyone in Weirich’s office from handling the case.

Jackson’s conviction for her mother’s 2005 stabbing death was overturned last year. Weirich served as lead prosecutor at Jackson’s 2009 trial, but will hand the reins over to Asst. Dist. Attys. Reggie Henderson and Alanda Dwyer pending a judge’s ruling on whether or not to disqualify the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office and appoint a prosecutor pro tempore.

Read full story

Posted by Samantha Bryson on April 8, 2015

Lawyers gearing up for the retrial of accused murderer Noura Jackson squared off in court Wednesday over whether staff from the local district attorney’s office, which has recused itself from the case, should be allowed to help the special prosecutor prepare for a new trial.

The hearing that was scheduled for Wednesday was reset until May because of unrelated scheduling conflicts with the court, but that didn’t stop defense attorney Michael Working and prosecutor pro tem Michael Dunavant of Ripley, Tennessee, from arguing a few issues anyway.

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Posted March 6, 2013, by Beth Warren

Two key prosecution witnesses in the murder case against an alleged teen gang member were so reluctant to testify, they had to be arrested on bench warrants. They’ll be in Shelby County Juvenile Court on Wednesday, but no one is certain what they will say.

Ray Lepone, a senior gang prosecutor, asked for a continuance last month and for bench warrants, saying he needed the witnesses to recount what they saw Sept. 19 outside Westwood Community Center when a gunman opened fire, killing 18-year-old Devail Lewis.

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Posted February 20, 2013, by Beth Warren

Jamerson Barnett, 24, and his younger brother were sitting with friends on a bench outside Westwood Community Center last fall, waiting to play basketball, when they heard gunfire.

They leapt to their feet and tried to run.

But within seconds, Barnett’s 18-year-old brother, Devail Lewis, uttered his last two words: “I’m hit!”

Lewis fell to the ground dead, blood coming from his nose and mouth.

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Posted July 3, 2014

(WMC) – Henri Brooks is still a Shelby County Commissioner. Chancellor Kenny Armstrong says the county attorney has not proved she moved out of her district.

On Thursday, Armstrong granted an injunction for Brooks. He added the County Commission must have a hearing to determine if she has.

“My constituents are important here. My constituents,” said Commissioner Brooks.

On Thursday morning, after her court battle, Brooks said “In spite of all the reports that they may have read or may have seen to the contrary I have not been ousted. I am a commissioner.”

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Posted February 13, 2015 by Samantha Bryson

Noura Jackson, 27, listens to her defense attorneys Michael Working and Valerie Corder as she appears in court for the first time since her conviction was overturned. Jackson was sentenced to 20 years and 9 months in 2009 for the 2005 murder of her mother, Jennifer Jackson. Corder and Working are asking for a bond hearing and for the District Attorneys Office to be disqualified from the trial.

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Posted April 8, 2015, by Brad Broders

MEMPHIS, TN ( – Noura Jackson will have to wait a little longer to learn whether she will be released on bond.

She faced a judge Wednesday morning. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted her a new trial last year. A jury found her guilty of second degree murder in 2009.

Noura Jackson remains inside the Shelby County Jail. She is still being held without bond, as both sides argued in court over resources and possible conflicts of interest ahead of her expected murder retrial. She has been there since February, reassigned from prison as she awaits a murder retrial.

In 2009 Jackson was convicted in the second degree murder of her mother in 2005.

Someone stabbed her mother 50 times inside her East Memphis home.

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Posted July 3, 2014 by Jackson Baker

It took a while, but the climactic hearing Thursday in the courtroom of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ended with the result that almost everyone foresaw after Tuesday’s initial hearing.

Armstrong had unmistakably signaled his disbelief on Tuesday that embattled County Commissioner Henri Brooks had not been definitively demonstrated to live outside the area, the now-obsolescent multi-member District 2, that she was elected to serve eight years ago — only that Shelby County Attorney Marcy Ingram had concluded so.

And so, after a little more than an hour of back-and-forth Thursday about case law and precedent and legal theory with attorneys for the County Commission, principally Ginny Bozeman, and Brooks’ own lawyers, Andre Wharton and Michael Working, Armstrong issued some version of what the Brooks camp had petitioned to get — a declaratory judgment setting aside the Commission’s plan, approved by a majority on June 25, to initiate a process to replace Brooks on the Commission.

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Posted July 4, 2014, by Samantha Bryson

A Chancery Court judge issued an order Thursday restraining the Shelby County Commission from filling Henri Brooks’ seat at its upcoming meeting on Monday, saying he found the investigation into her residency incomplete.

Commissioners initiated proceedings to declare Brooks’ seat vacant after the county attorney’s office concluded Brooks no longer lives in District 2.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong said that while the investigation concluded Brooks did not live at the address on Crump she had provided, it did not adequately determine where she does live.

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Posted July 4, 2014

(WMC) – The Fourth of July is known for fireworks, but you can expect more this Monday when the Shelby County commission meets.

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is upset with chancery court, saying “With all the respect in the world, I think Chancellor Armstrong was wrong.”

According to Roland, the Shelby County Commission governs itself and they will consider a resolution to determine if fellow commissioner Henri Brooks moved out of district two; thus vacating her seat.

“We’re going to correct our actions Monday. I’ve been in contact with the county attorney’s office,” said Roland. “We’re going to switch the resolution from a vacancy position to an ouster position.”

Henri Brooks’ attorney Mike Working says it certainly feels like all of this is being rushed.

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Source: The Commercial Appeal
Sept 26, 2016

The mother brought her little boy and girl to General Sessions Court, and the judge didn’t like it.

“I want you to understand this is no place to come with children!” the silver-haired judge said sternly. The little blonde girl ignored the court business and started toddling toward something at the side of the room. She yelped “Ya! Ya!”

Read full story

Source: Commercial Appeal
Katie Fretland , USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee Published 11:00 a.m. CT Feb. 8, 2017

A man who went on live TV to try to clear his name while police looked for him in a stabbing and kidnapping has been found not guilty of all charges in the case. Read full story

Posted by: Jeni Diprizio on Feb 3, 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – For the first-time ever, a juror who could have changed the outcome of the Noura Jackson murder trial speaks out. Jackson is the woman who served nine years for stabbing her mother to death in their East Memphis home.
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Posted by: Brix Fowler on Feb 15 2017

Dressed in flak jackets and armed with zip ties and guns dozens of Shelby County deputies, along with M.P.D. officers, made their presence known at 201 Poplar on Wednesday morning.

The officers came out in force after rumor of a “solidarity event” planned for two men facing charges after a protest at the Memphis Valero plant.

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In the Trump era, are politicians and police becoming emboldened at cracking down on the First Amendment and those who criticize their policies?

In Memphis, it seems so. Read Full Article

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel
Date: April 10, 2017

Fifty-four years after the nation’s highest court ruled an accused citizen should not stand alone against a well-funded government bent on taking away liberty and even life, a task force has reached an unpalatable conclusion – justice is too often measured in Tennessee’s courtrooms by the size of one’s wallet. Read Full Story

Source: The Commercial Appeal
Date: April 21, 2017

Shelby County juries found two men not guilty of murder this week in separate cases, and a third man was convicted of firing into a car full of people, wounding one woman. Read Full Story

Source: New York Times
Emily Bazelon August 1, 2017

Noura Jackson called 911 at 5 a.m. on Sunday, June 5, 2005. ‘‘Please, I need, I need an ambulance, I need an ambulance right now!’’ she cried. ‘‘Someone broke into my house. My mom — my mom is bleeding.’’ Read Full Story