Hands unbuckling handcuffs

How Bail Works in Tennessee

Brazil Clark, PLLC Jan. 18, 2024

Facing criminal charges can be an overwhelming experience, filled with uncertainty and apprehension. It's a time when the legal jargon becomes all too real, and one such term that you're likely to encounter is 'bail'. Understanding how bail works is crucial, as it can significantly affect your journey through the justice system. 

In the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, Attorney Frank Brazil, and his dedicated team at Brazil Clark, PLLC, are committed to guiding you through this challenging time. They understand the complexities of the legal system and strive to provide clear, comprehensive advice tailored to your unique situation. Serving clients throughout Middle Tennessee, Brazil Clark, PLLC has gained a reputation for their tenacity, compassion, and commitment to justice. 

Understanding Bail

Bail serves as a financial assurance that a defendant will attend all required court proceedings. It's essentially a deposit made to the court, allowing the defendant to remain free during the trial period. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail money is forfeited, and an arrest warrant is issued. The concept of bail might seem straightforward, but there are intricate details that require careful navigation. 

Factors Influencing Bail Amount

In Tennessee, the court takes into account several factors when determining the amount of bail. These factors are designed to assess the risk associated with releasing the defendant and to ensure that they will appear for their scheduled court dates. Here are some key factors that can influence the bail amount: 

  • Nature and Severity of the Charges: More serious charges typically come with higher bail amounts. This is because these offenses carry harsher penalties and, therefore, may provide a greater incentive for defendants to evade trial. 

  • Prior Criminal History: If the defendant has a history of previous arrests or convictions, the court may consider them more likely to commit further offenses or fail to appear in court, leading to a higher bail amount. 

  • Connections to the Community: Defendants with strong community ties, such as family, stable employment, or property ownership, are less likely to flee and thus may receive lower bail. 

  • Employment Status: Being employed can indicate stability and responsibility, potentially leading to a lower bail amount. Conversely, unemployment may result in a higher bail set by the court. 

  • Potential Flight Risk: If there's reason to believe that the defendant might try to evade trial by leaving the jurisdiction, the court may set a higher bail amount as a sort of insurance policy. 

It's important to remember that these factors are considered collectively, and the judge has discretion in setting the bail amount. Having an experienced attorney like Attorney Frank Brazil advocating for you can make a significant difference in this process.  

Types of Bail in Tennessee

In Tennessee, there are several types of bail that a defendant might be released on. These include: 

  • Cash Bail: In this case, the full bail amount is paid in cash. If the defendant makes all required court appearances, the cash will be returned at the end of the trial, minus any administrative fees. 

  • Bail Bond: A bail bond involves a bond seller, usually a bail bond agency, who guarantees payment of the full bail amount to the court if the defendant fails to appear. The defendant or a co-signer pays a non-refundable fee (typically 10% of the total bail amount) to the bond seller as a service charge. 

  • Property Bond: Here, property valued at the full bail amount is used as collateral. If the defendant doesn't appear in court, the court can seize the property. 

  • Own Recognizance (O.R.): A defendant released on O.R. isn't required to post bail. Instead, they sign a promise to show up in court. This is typically granted to defendants with strong community ties, stable employment, and little to no criminal history. 

Remember, it's crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney like Frank Brazil of Brazil Clark, PLLC, navigating these complexities on your behalf.  

The Bail Process

Understanding the bail process in Tennessee can be an overwhelming task, especially when dealing with the stress of a criminal charge. Here's a simplified step-by-step breakdown: 

  • Investigation and Arrest: A criminal case begins with an investigation leading to an arrest. 

  • Preliminary Hearing: Within 10 days, a preliminary hearing is held. If charged with a misdemeanor, you have the option to resolve the charge immediately at the General Sessions level. 

  • Grand Jury Ruling: For felony charges, you can request the matter to be presented to a Grand Jury, composed of 13 citizens from the county where the incident occurred. 

  • Arraignment: If charges result from the hearing or Grand Jury ruling, they are formally presented to you at your arraignment. 

  • Counsel Determination: At this point, you can request a public defender, or if you've already hired a criminal defense attorney like Attorney Frank Brazil, the court will determine if that person is qualified to represent you. 

  • Entering a Plea: You, the defendant, will enter a plea. If choosing a guilty plea or a plea agreement, you may be sentenced immediately, or a sentencing hearing may be scheduled. 

  • Trial: If pleading not guilty, a trial date is set within 90 days if you're still in custody, or 270 days if you're out on bail. 

  • Prosecution's Burden: During the trial, the prosecution must prove to a jury of 12 peers that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

  • Sentencing: If found guilty, a pre-sentencing investigation is conducted by the Adult Parole Authority, after which you will be sentenced. 

  • Right to Appeal: If convicted, you have the right to appeal the conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeals and then onto the Tennessee Supreme Court. 

Consequences of Skipping Court

If you're facing charges in Tennessee, it's crucial to understand the potential repercussions of failing to appear in court. Here are some of the consequences that can occur: 

  • Bench Warrant Issued: If you skip court, a judge will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This means law enforcement has the right to arrest you at any time or place. 

  • Forfeiture of Bail: If you posted bail and then fail to appear in court, you risk losing the entire bail amount. This could be a significant financial loss. 

  • Additional Criminal Charges: Failing to appear in court is considered a separate criminal offense in Tennessee. This can lead to additional charges and penalties, including fines and jail time. 

  • Suspension of Driver's License: In some cases, the court may notify the Department of Motor Vehicles about your failure to appear, which could lead to your driver's license being suspended. 

  • Difficulty Securing Bail in the Future: If you have a history of skipping court, it may be more difficult to secure bail for future offenses. Judges take prior failures to appear into account when setting bail. 

Strong & Reliable Legal Representation

Dealing with criminal charges can be daunting, and navigating the complexities of the bail process can add to this stress. However, with the right legal guidance, it becomes manageable. Attorney Frank Brazil and his team at Brazil Clark, PLLC, are committed to providing you with the support and representation you need during this challenging time.