The Chattanooga Free Times reported on Hamilton County General Sessions Judges raising bail bonds on an those accused of a crime. It seems one of the General Sessions Judges raises a bail bond more than a one-third of the time.
First, we need to know the basics.
- Once someone is arrested, a bail bond is set by a magistrate. A bail bond is set on a monetary amount to ensure an accused will appear in court for their court appearances and protect the safety of the public.
- A person can pay the amount of bail bond into the clerk of the court or hire a professional bail bond’s man or women, The court is guided by factors in setting the bond set by the state legislature. Here is a link to a video on the subject.
- In the Chattanooga cases, it appears the courts are routinely raising a bail bond if the accused has a preliminary hearing.
- A preliminary hearing is one of the most basic building blocks in preparing a effective defense in a criminal case.
Here are a couple of statements from the article.
"Frequently, when we’re at the end of a preliminary hearing, I’ll ask the prosecutor, ‘Is there a problem with the bond set to go to the grand jury?’" said General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes.
This is a sign to prosecutors that judges are open to raising the bonds — specific judges, defense attorneys say.
Though defense attorneys like preliminary hearings, they say prosecutors use them as leverage in a case.
"They will tell you, ‘I will bind your case over on the same bond," said defense attorney Jason Fisher. "’But, if you make me have a preliminary hearing, I’m going to ask for a higher bond.’"
Based on these comments it appears that the local district attorney’s office is using the bail bond system to keep those unable to post a bond in jail. The net result is it may force a plea bargain to get out of jail. It is unclear from the article if the district attorney’s office is filing a motion to increase bond or merely following the tone of the court. It is a disturbing trend to keep the bond excessive to prevent one to having a trial on the merits.
It seems that setting high bail bonds is a tool to prevent one’s day in court. keep someone in jail until they plead out.