General Sessions Court -- Night Court - Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • I want to prosecute someone for a criminal offense.  Can  I come to Night Court myself and obtain a criminal warrant?
    No.  In Davidson County, no one may obtain a criminal warrant or a criminal summons without the assistance of a police officer or an assistant district attorney.  The officer who took your report should be the one to assist you, or you may appear in person to ask the District Attorney's Office Warrant Screening Office Monday - Friday from 8:00a.m. - 11:30 a.m. located just outside of the Night Court courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center.  If the matter involves domestic violence, please contact Metro Police Domestic Violence Division located at 811 Second Avenue, South (by Howard School Building), or call 880-3000.
  • I wish to obtain an Order of Protection or restraining order against someone.  Can I get either one in Night Court?
    Yes, but only if you are the victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault; otherwise, no. An Order of Protection is a limited form of restraining order available only for victims described by statute.  An Order of Protection can be applied for in Night Court if you are a "victim," which is defined and limited by law to:  *Adults or minors who are current or former spouses; adults or minors who live together or have lived together; adults or minors who are dating or who have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship [as used herein "dating" and "dated" do not include fraternization between two (2) individuals in a business or social context]; adults or minors related by blood or adoption; adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by blood or marriage; or,  adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described above*. *Since July 1, 2005, a person who is a "victim" of stalking or sexual assault may also apply for an Order of Protection, regardless of any prior relationship to the alleged Respondent. * Minors cannot apply for an Order of Protection unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or a representative of the Department of Children’s Services, who must sign the petition for the minor applicant. Either the offense must occur in Davidson County, or the offender must live in Davidson County.  Otherwise, an application for an Order of Protection must be made in the county where the offense occurred or the county in which the offender lives.  There is no fee for the application process, but if you lose the case or fail to appear in court you will be assessed court costs of $174.50 and the case will be dismissed.  For a general restraining order, you will need to hire an attorney and file for a restraining order in either Circuit or Chancery Court to address any other problem, other than domestic violence.
  • I have a legal problem and I'm not sure what to do.  Can I call Night Court and ask the Judicial Commissioner for advice?
    No.  Judicial Commissioners are Magistrates and, like Judges, are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.
  • I called 911 to have police intervene in a domestic dispute and the police arrested my husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend / "significant other" / even though I didn't want the police to arrest anyone.  Why?  Can I have the charge dropped?
    Whenever police are called to respond to a domestic dispute, the law requires that an arrest be made in each and every circumstance, unless the police have a clear and compelling reason not to arrest.  The police are required to arrest the primary aggressor, in their judgment, and police officers are not to consider whether either party wants an arrest to be made; the police have very little discretion in these matters.  If the police cannot determine which party was the primary aggressor, since they are required to make an arrest by law, often the police will transport both parties to Night Court and present the facts to the Judicial Commissioner.  In such cases, the Magistrate will make the decision of which party is to be arrested and the charge to be brought against that person, if any. No, you may not have the charge dropped.  Whether the case should be prosecuted or not is within the sole discretion of the District Attorney General.
  • Someone I know has been arrested.  Can I call Night Court to find out what the charges were and what bail has been set?
    No.  The Magistrate in Night Court does not keep the jail records and will usually not have any information pertaining to someone who has been arrested.  You may call the Sheriff's Office (862-8123) to see if the Sheriff has a particular person in custody or the Criminal Court Clerk Bond Office (862-5670) to see if they have any record of someone being recently charged with a criminal offense.  During the first hour since someone was arrested, no information will be readily available as the arrested person is being fingerprinted for positive identification purposes and then taken before the Magistrate for a probable cause hearing whether the arrested person should be charged with committing a criminal offense.
  • Can anyone come to Night Court to observe the proceedings?  When?
    Yes.  Under Tennessee's Constitution, all courts are open to the public.  Night Court is the only court in Tennessee that operates 365 a year, 24 hours a day.  The Court never closes, even on holidays or weekends.  Night Court has 5 Judicial Commissioners / Magistrates that serve Night Court on rotating shifts.
  • A police officer assisted me in Night Court to prosecute someone for a criminal offense.  But, the Judicial Commissioner would  only issue a criminal summons rather than an arrest warrant, and I  wanted the person arrested not just summoned to court.  Why didn't the Commissioner issue a criminal warrant?
    The Judicial Commissioner has complete discretion whether to issue a criminal summons instead of a criminal warrant. 
  • I called Night Court and I only got voice mail.  The Judicial Commissioner did not return my phone call.  Why?
    At any given time, the Judicial Commissioner is presiding over numerous probable cause hearings, property forfeiture warrant hearings, reviewing applications from Davidson County's psychiatric hospitals whether to involuntarily commit someone for mental health treatment, or assisting a domestic violence victim with the application for an Order of Protection as well as addressing persons physically present in the Night Court courtroom with various matters.  When time permits, the Judicial Commissioner on duty will review the voice mail messages.  Since Judicial Commissioners are Magistrates, like Judges, they cannot by law give legal advice.  If the Judicial Commissioner believes the person who left a message is seeking legal advice of some sort, it would be improper for the Judicial Commissioner to discuss the case over the phone.

 

 


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