For some defendants in Tennessee, it’s possible to bypass the three different ways to post bail and instead apply for the Pretrial Release program. There are several benefits to this choice. The first is that there is no bail to pay because those chosen for the programs are released into the custody of the officials running the program. The second benefit is that defendants who meet all of the conditions of the program will eventually have their charges dropped. That keeps your record clear, and not having to deal with a conviction on your record is important because it can be difficult to get a job or find housing if you have a criminal conviction. Of course, not every defendant will qualify for Pretrial Release. The court generally chooses defendants with no prior convictions who are not charged with a crime of violence.
If you are arrested in Tennessee, here are 5 things you need to know about posting bail:
1. 4 Ways to Get Out of Jail
Cash bond – A defendant with the resources to pay for the entire amount of bond can save some money over a surety bond. Instead of paying 10 percent of the bond to a bail bond agent, which is nonrefundable, the defendant gets back most of the cash bond, minus only court costs and fines due. A cash bond can be paid by a defendant along or with the help of a bail bond agent. However,
Surety bond – At some point, bonds for misdemeanors become a bit too expensive for defendants. When the court decides that a personal recognizance release may not be sufficient, based on the crime involved, the defendant’s criminal history and his or her connection to the community, conditions that include supervision are added. The defendant could be released to the custody of an individual or organization that monitors and meets regularly with defendants. The individual could be a family member. If the defendant doesn’t fulfill all conditions imposed by the court, he or she will be required to pay the entire amount of the bail for that offense.
Property bond – Putting up a piece of property to secure bail is a way to save money that can spent on a lawyer and other costs following an arrest. The court will only accept property that is owned free and clear of any mortgage or lien. The defendant or owner of the land must establish both its value and the amount of equity in the property. That value must be 1 ½ times greater than the amount of bail.
Release on Recognizance – Known as an ROR release, this is a favorite of defendants because there is no money involved. Instead, as long as the defendant has a clean criminal record and the offense was not a crime of violence, there’s a chance the court may decide on to release the defendant on recognizance – the promise to return for all scheduled court hearings. The help of a criminal defense attorney can be invaluable since they are familiar with the types of defendants the court usually allows to be released on ROR and can argue on behalf of the defendant.
2. How to Get Bail
All defendants must wait until the booking process into jail has been completed. This involves fingerprinting, mug shots, drug-testing and paperwork and can take a couple of hours, depending on the size of the jail. If the bail amount has been determined – and that will be in the case in most situations except when more serious crimes are involved – the defendant can pay for a cash bond or contact a bail bond agent, co-signers or both.
3. What Will Bail Cost?
Tennessee law sets the bail premium at 10 percent and the Department of Insurance is in charge of regulating bail bond companies in the state. It is illegal for any bail bond company to offer a lower premium, although companies can offer payment plans. For a $100,000 bail, the premium is $10,000 and that amount is nonrefundable. There also are some state charges and court fees, but those are not significant.
4. How Long Will I Stay in Jail?
The time can vary from county to county, depending on the size of the jail. In Shelby County, the largest in the state, officials have estimated it takes 2 to 5 hours for a defendant to be released after the bail paperwork has been submitted. That is on top of 1 to 3 hours or longer for the booking process. Bail takes longer with domestic violence cases and for more serious felonies. The difference with many felonies is that a bond hearing must be held, which can take up to 1 or 2 days. With misdemeanors, the bail has already been established and is included on schedules available in all jails throughout the state.
5. What if I Miss a Court Appearance?
A lawyer can argue for bail to be reset if the defendant can immediately present a reasonable excuse for missing a court appearance. When bail forfeiture has been ordered, the bail bond agent will usually hire bounty hunter to bring the defendant back to court. Failure to appear is a Class E penalty in Tennesse punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. In addition, a judge order a new bail amount – if one is allowed at all – that is double the normal bail amount. The defendant and co-signer also will be legally responsible for the entire amount of the bail that was forfeited.