published Saturday, August 27th, 2011

New Tennessee law will allow judges to hold suspects after subsequent arrest

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"If after the defendant is released upon personal recognizance, an unsecured personal appearance bond, or any other bond approved by the court, the defendant violates a condition of release, is charged with an offense committed during the defendant's release, or engages in conduct which results in the obstruction of the orderly and expeditious progress of the trial or other proceedings, then the court may revoke and terminate the defendant's bond and order him held without bond pending trial or without release during trial."

Source: Tennessee Code

A new law soon will allow judges to incarcerate a suspect if the person picks up new charges while out on bail and awaiting trial.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, says that, in these cases, a judge can put the accused in jail without bond.

Currently, state law does not allow judges to put someone in jail without bond unless they are charged with a capital offense or violate probation from a sentence they are serving from a previous conviction.

While the new law would allow judges to hold suspects without bond at the judge's discretion, some defense attorneys argue the law may be unconstitutional.

"Just the fact they are not setting the bond and it's not a capital case," said Ardena Garth, Hamilton County lead public defender.

"The sadder part about some of this is, if somebody is going to be in custody and not be able to make bond, they may lose their job," Garth said. "Challenging the constitutionality [of the new law] is not going to be something inexpensive."

In many cases, prosecutors may offer defendants a plea deal that would allow them to get out of jail and return home. But such deals may make it harder for someone to challenge the new law.

"Who's going to appeal at that point?" she said.

The new law comes at a time when a local competitive bail bonds market has allowed for defendants to post bond at as little as 3 percent rather than the traditional 10 percent.

Judges and magistrates set bonds to ensure a defendant will appear in court and also take into consideration public safety, depending on the crime and the person's record. With lower premiums being paid, sometimes suspects post bond only to be arrested again, sometimes on the same charge.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox said the new law will be a tool "we can utilize to accomplish our mission."

"Our job is to do everything we can to protect the public," he said.

While most people who are arrested do not pick up new charges while they await trial, some do, Cox said, and they're the "biggest problem in the criminal justice system -- those who dedicate their self to criminal activity."

"You still have to remember you're not guilty until proven, but what this statute is saying, in essence, when you agree to certain conditions on your bond release, you have to comply with them or you can be held until trial, which makes sense," he said.

State Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, who is also a practicing attorney, sponsored the bill. He said the new rule came about as a "technical correction" in the law after a defense attorney won an appeal after a judge revoked the bond in one case.

The law currently allows judges to revoke a defendant's bond when the trial is going on. The language doesn't include pending trials, however.

"I think judges have always been able to make that balancing decision once that someone is out on bond," said Hank Hill, a local defense attorney. "I think most of our judges evaluate the facts on a case-by-case basis."

He did, however, note portions of the new law could lead to constitutional challenges due to vagueness. In one portion, the law states that the accused can be put in jail without bond if he or she "engages in conduct which results in the obstruction of the orderly and expeditious progress of the trial or other proceedings."

"What does that mean?" Hill asked. "If the guy doesn't show up two or three times, that's an obvious problem. If the guy shows up and says, 'I appreciate the fact that I have an appointed lawyer, but the guy isn't doing anything. Can I get a new lawyer?' Are you going to put him in jail for that because that obstructs the orderly flow of the process?"

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harrystatel said...

"Hamilton County District Attorney General Bill Cox said the new law will be a tool "we can utilize to accomplish our mission.""

"Our job is to do everything we can to protect the public," he said."

When Blind Billy Cox investigates the rampant government corruption in Hamilton County pigs will be flying over the courthouse.

His statement of "protecting the public" is laughable.

Blind Billy really means, "I'm doing everything I can to protect my pension, my cronies, and the rest of the crooks and thieves in the justice system. This new law gives me the opportunity to pad the pockets of lawyers, DA's, and the system that pays our salaries. I welcome the opportunity to wipe my ass on the Constitution and 'due process' in the time-honored tradition of unchecked government thugs and robbers."

God bless you Blind Billy; I feel safer knowing you're the chief law enforcement "authority" in the county.

August 27, 2011 at 6:59 a.m.
macropetala8 said...

In today's America over over-incarceration, picking up new charges can include any and everything from a minor traffic violation to jaywalking. As in all things, this new law will be abused too.

August 27, 2011 at 10:36 a.m.
lcoffey1 said...

Harry your post is great. I do not know what you are saying is true but still funny.

This is what I see the problem with this law being. In the past 3-4 years I have been in an ongoing civil dispute with the city of Rossville. They have in return taken 12 criminal charges against me of which none has gone to court and 9 of them have been outright dismissed. It will be easy for the cops to charge someone that they do not like or has evidence of misconduct and then go back and re-charge them in order to keep them in jail and shut them up. It will be used politically to retaliate against political opponents and general glad flys that speak out against the current regime. The law is a bad law and I feel is blatant violation of the constsitution. I would expect it will be made null and void by some federal court soon.

August 27, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.
harrystatel said...

"I would expect it will be made null and void by some federal court soon. "

Only if the federal judge uses the Constitution as the law rather than his own personal sense of omnipotence. Don't hold your breath.

August 27, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.
fedup350 said...

We need this law. The criminals in Tennessee especially know that they will have to be caught and convicted for numerous crimes before they will be sentenced to any significant jail time. Which means that innocent citizens will be victimized several times over before the trash will be taken out, sop to speak. I myself would gladly give more tax money if it went to prisons to lock up the criminals instead of going to freeloaders who live off the government, i.e. the working taxpayer.

August 28, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
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