Successfully getting a bond reduced in Tennessee requires a thorough understanding of the factors the courts look at when setting a defendant’s bond (also called “bail”).
A motion for a criminal bond reduction can be filed any time before trial. In many jurisdictions, bond is initially set by a commissioner. The initial amount of a criminal bond can later be lowered by the judge to whom the case is assigned. Bond reduction motions can be filed in criminal court (also called “circuit court”), as well as in general sessions. Once a bond motion is filed, it is then set for a hearing by the clerk of the court.
When considering altering the amount of a bond, the judge must look at several statutory factors. The relevant factors for a judge to consider when deciding on a bond reduction motion in Tennessee can be found in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-11-118. The court is commanded to look at the following factors to determine whether a reduction in bond is proper: the defendant’s length of residence in the community; the defendant’s employment status and history and financial condition; the defendant’s family ties and relationships; the defendant’s reputation, character and mental condition; the defendant’s prior criminal record; the nature of the offense and the apparent probability of conviction and the likely sentence; and, generally any other factors related to the risk of flight and danger to the community.
At a bond reduction hearing, the defense will often ask family members, ministers and friends to testify and be physically present to show that the defendant is sufficiently tied to the community and not a flight risk. In addition to defense witnesses, the prosecution is allowed to subpoena alleged victims or police officers to show the likelihood of the defendant’s conviction. After all the testimony is concluded, the judge must then decide whether to alter the defendant’s bond. Weighing all the factors, the judge can either leave it the same, reduce it, or in especially rare cases, actually increase it. Depending on the judge, some statutory factors can be more important than others. However, if after the court’s bond decision, the bond still exceeds $75,000.00 after the hearing on the motion to reduce bond, a source hearing is required before bail can be made.
After the court’s decision is entered, friends and family members can then post bond at the new, hopefully reduced amount. If the decision is unfavorable, there is a procedure to appeal to the court of criminal appeals. There is also nothing to stop a defendant from filing multiple motions to reduce bond. In all, to have a chance at filing a successful bond reduction motion in Tennessee, a criminal defense attorney’s expertise is required who is familiar with the law and the court that holds sway over the bond amount. A good criminal defense attorney is always your best bet.