For most people, the first priority after being arrested and charged with a criminal offense is to get out of jail. Fortunately, in the United States, an accused is entitled to be released from jail pending trial if the accused can post a satisfactory bond. If you have no prior experience with the criminal justice system, however, the concept of bond and the process required to post a bond can be intimidating and confusing. A Tennessee criminal defense attorney offers some basic information and guidance with regard to the bond requirements and procedures in the State of Tennessee.
The Right to Bond
The concept of bond is hardly a new concept. The primary difference in the United States is that everyone is entitled to bond, not just noblemen and those with connections in high places. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that “Excessive bail shall not be required.” That right has been interpreted to mean that in almost all criminal prosecutions – murder being the only exception in state court – a defendant is entitled to a reasonable bond.
Determining a “Reasonable Bond”
Although an accused has been entitled to a reasonable bond since the 8th Amendment was passed over 200 years ago, the way in which that right was applied was not always clear, much less fair. To correct the wide disparity in bond amounts that were the norm at one time, most states now use bond schedules or matrixes to determine the amount of a defendant’s bond. Typically, a defendant’s initial bond is set using the bond schedule or matrix which usually looks at the severity level of the instant offense and the defendant’s criminal history. If a defendant is unable to pay the bond initially set, the defendant’s defense attorney may request a bond review hearing to try and get the bond lowered. At a bond review hearing, the judge will typically consider three factors when considering a request to lower the bond:
- Risk to the community if released. The judge will consider the defendant’s criminal history, paying particular attention to whether the defendant has been convicted of any violent crimes.
- Risk of flight. The judge will look at the defendant’s ties to the community, specifically to whether the defendant has family in the community, how long he/she has lived in the area, and how long he/she has been employed at a current job. The judge will also consider any past court cases and whether the defendant showed up as ordered to court or failed to appear.
- Severity and/or circumstances of the instant offense. The judge will consider the potential punishment if convicted as well as take into account the wishes of an alleged victim if there is one.
Once bond has been set, there are two basic ways to pay it. The first is to pay the entire amount in cash. If the defendant shows up for court as ordered until the case is disposed of, you will get the bond back, minus any expenses such as court courts or fines. The other options is to use a bail bondsman. If you go this route you will only have to pay a percentage of the bond (usually 10 percent) to the bail bondsman who then effectively takes responsibility for the entire bond with the court. The percentage you pay to the bail bondsman is not returned to you as that is the bail bondsman’s fee for covering the entire bond.
In the State of Tennessee, there is also a unique procedure known as a “Source Hearing” that may apply to your bond. For bonds over $75,000, you may have to attend a Source Hearing and prove to the court the source of the money you plan to use for the bond. The purpose of the law requiring a Source Hearing is to prevent the use of drug money for the payment of bonds.
Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about posting a bond in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.