When defendants are charged with DUI or other alcohol-related offenses, Tennessee law gives the court broad authority to impose almost whatever condition the judge considers reasonable. Usually, a general standard order applies to initial bail conditions. That’s because these matters are not assigned to individual courts until later. When that happens, the judge could unilaterally modify bail conditions. If the defendant does not timely comply with these changes, the judge could forfeit the bond.
So, in addition to the standard bail conditions, most of these defendants can expect some additional restrictions. Since DUI and other alcohol-related offenses are technically public safety matters, courts are willing to grant excessive authority and err on the side of caution.
Frequently, bail conditions in DUIs are quite burdensome. But pretty much any restriction is better than sitting in jail. Fortunately, at Fizer Bonding Company, our Clarksville, TN bail bond agents proactively work with defendants to tailor a set of bail conditions that meet their needs and still conform to judicial requirements. In other words, we work within the law to keep you out of jail until you have your day in court.
Bail Options in DUI Cases
It’s hard to believe, but in some cases, it’s easier to get out of jail for attempted murder than it is to get out for DUI. That’s because of the aforementioned public safety aspect of alcohol-related offenses. If Max tries to kill his ex-wife, he’s arguably only a threat to her. But if Max drinks and drives, especially if there were some aggravating circumstances, he’s arguably a threat to pretty much everyone both on and maybe even off the road.
So, pretrial release is usually only available in limited situations. Pretrial release, or Own Recognizance (OR) release, essentially reduces a DUI charge to a traffic ticket, at least for pretrial release purposes. In fact, in some jurisdictions, pretrial release is unavailable in these situations as a matter of policy. These jurisdictions seem to feel it is better to automatically keep the public safe from harm without question.
In most cases, prompt DUI jail release requires working with a Montgomery County bail bondsman like Fizer Bonding Company. As long as there are no aggravating circumstances, the sheriff usually sets a presumptive bail amount, which means immediate release is available. The most common aggravating circumstances are:
- Chemical Test Refusal: Defendants have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to provide a breath or blood sample. However, since Tennessee is an implied consent state (divers agree to provide chemical samples when they sign their licenses), such refusal has consequences, especially in terms of bail amount or availability.
- Serious Accident: This frightening enhancement usually increases simple misdemeanor DUI to a serious felony. However, this enhancement often doesn’t hold up in court. A credible witness must place the defendant behind the wheel at or near the time of the wreck. Such witnesses are difficult to find.
- Prior DUI Conviction: For penalty purposes, a 10-year lookback period usually applies. Old convictions drop off your criminal record, at least for this limited purpose. But for pretrial detention purposes, old DUI cases usually stay on your permanent record forever.
If the sheriff refuses to set a presumptive bond, an attorney can usually get one set at the arraignment. This preliminary hearing usually happens about seventy-two hours after an arrest.
Showing up at all required hearings and avoiding further trouble with the law are the two biggest standard bail conditions. Violation of either one usually results in immediate bond forfeiture and issuance of a bench warrant.
The showup requirement varies in different courts. Some judges only require defendants to appear at contested hearings, like a suppression hearing or a trial. Others require defendants to show up at all court dates, even if the hearing is just procedural. Appearance is also always mandatory at your initial court date. Ask the court clerk about the appearance policy. Or, better yet, ask your lawyer. Court clerks aren’t always friendly.
Usually, the “further trouble with the law” requirement includes arrests. We usually advise defendants to stop drinking while they are out on bail. So, they don’t get out of control and they also avoid situations which could lead to legal trouble.
Other standard conditions include periodic check-ins with a bail bondsman, remaining in the county, and working and/or attending school full time. Typically, if a defendant violes such conditions, the judge gives the defendant a chance to make things right.
An IID is basically a portable Breathalyzer which is connected to the vehicle’s ignition. If the defendant’s BAC is above a certain level, usually .04, the vehicle will not start. Furthermore, the defendant must provide periodic rolling samples. If any result is a fail, or there are too many rolling refusals, the vehicle won’t start the next time you turn the key.
Most pretrial release orders include random drug and alcohol tests. However, if the defendant is driving while the case is pending, we usually say the IID results satisfy this requirement. Of course, the judge has the final word in these cases.
Another possible condition, which is rather unique to Tennessee, is residence in a halfway house or treatment center. The judge usually imposes this condition in aggravated DUI arrests, as outlined above. Sometimes, staying with a sober relative or friend could meet this requirement.
Bond Forfeiture Issues
Finally, let’s talk a bit about bond forfeiture. If the judge issues a bench warrant, that warrant cancels the existing bond. So, the defendant is subject to arrest at any time. These warrants usually contain additional restrictions which make it difficult, but not impossible, to arrange for another bail bond.
Occasionally, judges allow defendants to appear in court and explain why they didn’t meet a certain requirement. But these opportunities are few and far between, and even if the judge hears you out, pretty much no excuse is good enough.
So, we usually advise these defendants to make arrangements with our bondsman at Fizer Bonding Company or their lawyers and voluntarily surrender. That way, they aren’t subject to random arrest and the pretrial release process is much smoother.
“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”
Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee
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