How Does Bail Work in Tennessee Criminal Cases?After an arrest for any criminal charge, a defendant is entitled to a bail hearing. Defendants who can obtain bail are released from prison. Defendants who are not approved for bail or can’t meet the bail requirements will stay in jail until their case can be heard. Experienced defense lawyers fight to have their clients released on bail while their trial is pending. It’s easier to prepare your defense when you’re not behind bars. (It’s always better to be on the outside of a prison than inside.)

Factors that determine the bail conditions for a defendant

Defendants in criminal cases can either be released on their own recognizance (released because they’re known in the community and the judge reasonably believes they will appear for their trial), or if an unsecured appearance bond is properly executed for the amount set by the magistrate.

Tennessee law provides that the magistrate deciding a bail request will consider the following factors:

  • How long the defendant has lived in the community.
  • Whether the defendant has a job, his/her financial condition, and his/her employment history.
  • The defendant’s ties to family and his/her other relationships.
  • The “reputation, character, and mental condition” of the defendant.
  • Whether the defendant has a prior criminal record, “including prior releases on recognizance or bail.”
  • The identity of members of the community who are considered responsible – who will vouch for the reliability of the defendant.
  • The criminal offense the defendant is charged with committing, the likelihood of conviction, and the likely sentence, as these factors relate to whether the defendant will appear at trial.
  • Any other relevant factors that show the defendant’s community ties or that the defendant might not appear for his/her trial.

Bail bond agencies may consider payment plans, though you will likely stay in jail until the agency is paid the full 10%.

Magistrates typically consider releasing defendants on their own recognizance for less serious crimes, provide the judge is confident you will appear in court. If you are released on your own recognizance, there is no court fee and no out-of-pocket expenses.

Generally, defendants who have a prior criminal record, who are considered a flight risk, or whose crime warrants the possibility of the death penalty can be denied the right to bail. There may be different bail rules for Tennessee state crimes and federal crimes.

Once the magistrate sets the amount of bail, your Franklin defense lawyer can seek to reduce the amount of bail or seek to have you released on your own recognizance. On the other hand, the prosecution may seek to increase bail – especially if they have reason to believe a defendant is a flight risk.

How does the Tennessee bail bond system work?

Essentially, a bail bond agency assures the criminal justice system that the defendant will appear for his/her court hearing or trial by paying funds into the court. If the defendant fails to show, the court keeps the bail money. If the defendant does appear at the hearing, the bail funds are released. Bail bond agencies must follow specific rules. There are different types of bail bonds that can be used including:

  • Cash bail bonds. The agency provides the cash amount. You need to pay 10%.
  • Property bonds. The agency provides property as security for the defendant’s appearance. To use a property bond, you need to own a home or personal property whose value is equal to or more than the amount of the bail.

Other types of bonds such as corporate bonds may be used, too.

The use of bonds isn’t free, even if the defendant does appear for his hearing. After all, the bond agency is in the bail bond business to earn a living. Essentially, the agency can charge a fee up to 10% of the amount of the bail set by the judge. For example, if the magistrate sets bail at $10,000, the defendant (or someone on his/her behalf) must pay the bail bond agency $1,000. The criminal court also charges a small fee.

If the defendant does appear at the court hearings and does comply with the bail conditions, he/she is not entitled to a return of the 10% that was given to the bail bond agency. Essentially, the 10% is the bail bond agency’s (or bail bondsman’s) profit.

Common bail conditions in Tennessee

In addition to being required to appear at any court hearings, the defendant who is released on bail must:

  • Keep his/her job
  • Submit to substance abuse testing
  • Check with court officials about his/her whereabouts
  • Comply with curfew requirements
  • Avoid travel beyond preset geographical areas

Another possible condition is that you may include the need to wear a tracking device.

If a defendant doesn’t show up for his/her hearing, the bail bonds agency authority to find the defendant. If the defendant doesn’t appear for a hearing, the criminal court will issue a warrant for your arrest and notify law enforcement who will also look for the defendant.

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our Franklin criminal defense lawyers have been fighting for defendants for 30 years. We represent defendants at every stage of the criminal process, including lineups, the arrest, bail hearings, preliminary hearings, motions to suppress evidence, requests for discovery, a trial before a jury, and on appeal. We work aggressively to obtain dismissals or acquittals. We also are ready to negotiate plea bargains of the charges to lesser charges or to less severe sentences. We work with your family and others to help show you are not a flight risk and to arrange or modify your bail. To speak with us about any criminal case, call our office at 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We’re strong advocates for defendants charged with crimes in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood, and throughout Tennessee.