Recently, the bail bond system has been in the news due to the perceived inequality of the bail bond system. The most common complaint is the bail bond system unfairly treats the poor. Some bonds are set so high that the accused cannot afford to make the bail bond. The result is people set in jail until the case is resolved. It can lead to people pleading guilty just to get out of jail.
Under the Tennessee Constitution , everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a bail bond with one notable exception. The only exception is if you are charged with a capital offense. A capital offense is where the death penalty is sought. The primary purpose of the bail bond is to ensure the defendant comes to court and to protect the public.
The big question is how to make the bail bond system fair. Will only the 1% of the people be able to afford a bail bond ? One of the critical issues is how should the bond amount be determined. In Tennessee, most of the bail bonds are being set by the judicial magistrate. There is some guidance given to the courts in setting the bail bond pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 40-11-118. Personally, I have seen multiple offense DUI bonds in Sumner County Tennessee range from $50,000. to $100,000. The Tennessean reported today on a Metro school teacher had a bond set at $100,000 on a child pornography case in Davidson County.
in years past, some Tennessee counties established a fixed schedule in setting bail bonds. San Francisco used a fixed bond schedule until they were recently sued. San Francisco and 30 other cities or counties have adopted a scoring system established by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation which uses nine factors to establish the bail bond amount.
Being in jail awaiting to face your charges harms those accused of a crime. Low income defendants are even more at risk at losing their jobs. Low income jobs are not as secure and they can be replaced more easily. In an effort to get out of jail and return to their family, some people plead guilty of a crime just to get out of jail if they cannot afford to pay the bail bond. The offer of immediate freedom may cause people to plead guilty even when they are innocent or have viable defenses.
My father was a lawyer. One of his sayings that I remember quite well is " Those with the capital don’t get the punishment." Now, it is those without the capital don’t get out of jail. maybe it is time to overhaul the bail bond system.
In closing, I know some folks around the state read my blog. I would invite your comments on your local bail bond system operates.