Rants, raves, and other random thoughts about legal issues in Memphis, Tennessee.

Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not (by any means) legal advice. Don't say we didn't warn you. Do not (under any circumstances) try the things we posted on this blog at home. The law chicks are trained professionals and are equipped to handle the stunts that they perform.

Friday, August 10, 2012

You Making Bail by Twelve O'Clock? What Do You Do If You Still Get Popped?

“The hell I care ‘bout getting’ caught, I’m making bail by 12 o’clock…”   (c) Mac Boney, rapper extraordinaire


Hello chickadees, today we are going to talk about setting and posting bail.  For our chickadees who are unfamiliar with the legal system, bail is an amount of money set in place by a judge during a pending criminal case that gives the person facing the charges the option to enjoy freedom from jail while the charges are pending against them.  Once the amount of bail is set in place, the accused person can either make bail—pay the amount directly to the court so that, no matter what the outcome of the case is, he or she can get the money back when the case is over—or the accused can make arrangements to have a bonding agent to post a bond for them. 

The purpose of setting an amount for bail is to ensure that a person accused of a crime (a defendant) comes to court as required in order to face the charges against them.  If the defendant doesn’t come to court, or if they violate the bail conditions set in place by the judge, the bail will either be raised or revoked, and a warrant will be issued for the defendant’s arrest.  There are a couple of things that the judge can consider when determining whether or not set an amount for bail and how much that amount should be.  Some of the considerations are:
1.      How long the defendant has lived in the community;
2.      Whether or not the defendant has a job;
3.      The defendant’s family ties and relationships;
4.      The defendant’s reputation, character and mental      condition;
5.      The defendant’s criminal record and whether or not they failed to appear in court before;
6.      The seriousness of the offense and whether it is likely that the defendant will be convicted;
7.      Whether or not the defendant will pose a danger to the community based on his or her criminal record.

There are many misconceptions floating around about what posting bail actually accomplishes.  Some people, including Mac Boney (see the introductory quote), seem to think that once a defendant posts bail, they are free to do whatever they want, and because they posted bail, no one can do anything about it.  In fact, Mac Boney goes on in the song Bankhead to state that after he posts bail by twelve o’clock, he’s going to go right back to the same corner to participate in the same activity that got him arrested in the first place.

In reality, posting bail will only guarantee temporary freedom.  In many situations, the only way a defendant can get to permanent freedom is after the case is resolved with the help of a licensed attorney.

While out on bail or bond, the judge usually sets some other conditions that the defendant must fulfill.  These conditions almost always include NOT GETTING YOUR “OUT ON BAIL” BEHIND ARRESTED AGAIN.  Usually, if a defendant does what Mac Boney proposes and gets caught (again), upon motion of the prosecutor, the judge will revoke or raise the bail on the case the defendant was already out of custody on.  Then the judge on the new case will set a bail for that case, too.  This effectively puts the defendant’s lawyer in the uncomfortable position of convincing both judges that even though you were arrested for say selling dope while out on bail for selling dope, you deserve to be free.

Of course, an attorney can only present an argument for allowing her client to be released on bail if she has been hired.  In many cases, a defendant or a defendant’s family chooses to forgo hiring an attorney in favor of signing away the rights to all of their worldly goods to get a bonding company to post a bond that could potentially be revoked. This is what we mean when we say that posting a bond only grants temporary freedom.   

There are two schools of thought when it comes to bail.  In the aforementioned, selling drugs situation, the defendant would be in the category of those who believe bail is set too high.  In big cases in the media, for example the Trayvon Martin case, many people tend to think that the bail is not high enough.
Setting bail is a decision that is totally up to the judge.  Tennessee judges base their decision on the factors in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-11-118 that we wrote about at the beginning of the article.  These factors mean that setting bail is usually done on a case-by-case basis depending on the defendant.  This is why a low-level dope boy (aka a drug dealer who sells “cheap” drugs on the corner) and someone like Al Pacino’s character at the end of the movie Scarface could be charged with the same crime but may need to have different amounts of bail set.
In some cases, when the charged crime is very serious, or when there is a high threat potentially posed to the public if the defendant is released, the judge may determine not to set an amount for bail.  Judges tread a very fine line when setting bail.  On the one hand, under the law, they have an obligation to set a bond as low as the court determines is necessary to assure the appearance of the defendant at court.  On the other hand, if a judge sets bail too low, the defendant posts it, and the defendant commits another crime, everyone will accuse the judge of not doing his or her job.

If you know someone who has been arrested, remember the differences between a bail and a bond.  Think carefully about whether or not it would be best in your situation to post a bail or to contact a bonding company to post a bond for you or your loved one.  Remember, posting bail or bond is only the first step in the legal process.  You must obtain the services of a licensed attorney to guide you or your loved one to permanent freedom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Williams & Dawkins Law Firm Daily

Greetings and Salutations, Chickadees! It's been a long long L O N G time since we last chirped! We just wanted to let you know that we've set up a fun little daily newspaper with cool information about what's been cracking in the legal world around us! Check out our paper, The Williams & Dawkins Law Firm Daily, and feel free to subscribe! Also, keep up with us all over the web: Facebook, Twitter, and Our Company Website!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Chicks are Tweeting!

The Law Chicks are the proud owners of a criminal defense/personal injury law firm in Memphis, and we're spreading the word about it 140-characters at a time!

Check us out. We're @WDLFMemphis!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One Of These Things Is Not Like the Other: DUIs and Diversion

Hello Chickadees,

As most of you know, the legal alcohol blood concentration limit in Tennessee is 0.08%. Can you tell when you’ve drank enough to reach or exceed that amount? If you answered no, then you are definitely not alone. It's pretty much a guarantee that the average person can't determine when they surpass that magical number and cross over into the land of the dark criminal underworld. People have one or two drinks all the time and drive only to find themselves charged with a DUI and possibly stuck with a criminal record for life.
What many people don’t know is that Tennessee has a program for criminal first offenders called diversion. Basically, under Tennessee law, if you commit certain crimes in the state and you are a first time criminal offender, you can take advantage of this program and possibly have your criminal record erased after going on probation. Thus, after committing one of the eligible crimes, if you meet all of the requirements, you too can have a chance to make the bad situation as though it never happened.

You chickadees may be wondering what these requirements are. Well, first we’ll start with the types of crimes that are not diversion eligible. It’s easier to do it that way because there are so many crimes that a person could commit that would still make him or her eligible for diversion.

If you are charged with an A or B felony, you are ineligible for diversion. I’ll give you a nonexclusive list of crimes that could be considered A or B felonies to give you a better idea of what would make you ineligible. Basically, if you rob someone with a gun, or if you kidnap someone and they get seriously hurt, or if you commit a crime that’s results in serious bodily harm to someone else, you are ineligible for diversion. If you steal an obscene amount of stuff that adds up to over $60,000, you are ineligible for diversion. Also, you can’t get diversion for sex crimes. Last, but definitely not least, as it is the point of this entire post YOU CANNOT GET DIVERSION FOR DUI.

Now we’ll admit, before we became attorneys, we always thought of people charged with DUI like this:

Unfortunately in reality, some people charged with DUI are not really that impaired. In fact, sometimes, people are charged with what’s called DUI per se simply because their blood alcohol concentration is exactly at 0.08%. These people are usually stopped by the police for something other than what most would consider “suspicious DUI activity” like swerving on the road or a single or multiple car accident. They are stopped for speeding, or out of date tags and things roll downhill from there. They could also be arrested after not driving at all because in Tennessee you simply have to be in “physical control” of a vehicle in order to violate the DUI law. These people are certainly not what others would call “hardened criminals.” In fact, many times, these people have no criminal record at all, and are unlikely to ever get caught up in a criminal case again. Since there is no diversion for DUI, these people could end up with criminal records while others in a similar position charged with domestic assault or assault or theft get a second chance at a clean record. Here are some examples to give you a better idea of how skewed the Tennessee diversion program is.

This is Jill.

Jill has a husband named Jack.

Jill comes home from work one day and Jack has not finished cooking Jill’s dinner. Jill punches Jack in the throat. Jack has a bruise and he is sore, but Jack is for the most part okay.

Jack decided to call the police. Jill goes to jail. Jack has never called the police on Jill before, so Jill has no criminal record. Jill is diversion eligible. Jill gets to go on probation for a while, and since Jack didn’t call the police to come get her during Jill’s probation, and Jill did everything else she was supposed to do while on probation, Jill had her case dismissed at the end of her probation. Jill got her criminal record expunged and now Jill is good as new.

This is Jane.

Jane felt unappreciated. Jane felt as though she needed some retail therapy to feel better. Jane went to her local clothing store and shopped around for a little while. She still didn’t feel better. Jane decided that she would get more of a rush if she stole some clothes. Jane wanted to see if she could get away with stuffing some clothes into her purse. Jane put the clothes in her purse and left the store. She heard “stop thief,” and started running.

Jane was stopped by the loss prevention officer at the store and was later taken to Jail East. Jane has never gotten caught stealing before, so Jane doesn’t have a criminal record. Jane is diversion eligible. Jane goes on probation for a while and does everything that she is supposed to do while she is on probation. Jane gets her record expunged after her probation is over and her criminal record is good as new.

This is Joe.

Joe’s birthday is today. Joe’s friends took Joe to celebrate. Joe had one drink. Joe did not feel impaired. Joe did not seem impaired to any of his friends. Joe got into his car to go home, but before Joe put the keys into the ignition, Joe decided that he shouldn’t drive home. While sitting in his car, Joe called a friend to come back and pick Joe up. Joe’s friend agreed, so Joe decided to wait in his car for his friend to come back. It was late and Joe fell asleep in his car. A few minutes later, Joe heard a tap at his car window. It was a friendly Memphis Police Officer. Joe let his window down. The officer asked if everything was alright. The officer asked if Joe had been drinking. Joe may be a lot of things, but he is not a liar. Joe told the officer that he had a drink with friends earlier. The officer asked Joe to step out of the car. Joe stepped out of the car. Joe is compliant and does everything the officer says. Joe goes to jail. Joe gets a conviction for DUI. Joe has a lifelong criminal record.

One of these illustrations is not like the other. How is it fair that in Tennessee, Jill and Jane committed crimes and get to have a second chance, but Joe had a drink with friends and he must have a criminal record for life? Now, we are by no means suggesting that anyone drive while impaired. However, due to the fact that alcohol is legal to drink if you are over 21, and due to the fact that no one can tell when they’ve reached that magical number of 0.08%, a person charged with DUI should be diversion eligible.

Some of you chickadees may be thinking “what if someone is sloppy drunk and they decide to drive based on the fact that they know they get one free pass?” We think that if DUI were to become an offense for which one could be diversion eligible, there should be limits. Just as some crimes go from diversion eligible crimes to ineligible crimes (like robbery to aggravated robbery, or kidnapping to aggravated kidnapping), there should be at least two classes of DUI, with one being diversion eligible and the other being diversion ineligible. For example, if someone charged with DUI has injured another person while driving, the crime should be considered ineligible for diversion. Also, if someone’s blood alcohol concentration is determined to be extremely high, they should be placed in a separate category, and judicial diversion should be unavailable to them.

Once again, the Law Chicks do not endorse drunk driving, but we think it would be nice if a first offender with a DUI case could have an opportunity to get a second chance. What do you all think?

Peace, Love, and Quid Pro Quo,

The Law Chicks

P.S. If you really want to be a dork, you can check out the Tennessee DUI Statute and the Tennessee Diversion Statute. The DUI Statute is Tennessee Code Annotated Section 55-10-401. The Diversion Statute is Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-35-313.


Hello Chickadees,

Welcome to the Law Chicks Blog. Here we discuss legal issues and current events that happen in and that affect our great city of Memphis, Tennessee. Make yourself at home and enjoy! Remember, as we’ve said in the caption above, THE POSTS ON THIS SITE DO NOT CONTAIN LEGAL ADVICE. The posts are for discussion and commentary ONLY. If you need legal advice, you need to call an attorney so that he or she can evaluate your case based on the specific facts of your case. Thanks for visiting.

Peace, love, and quid pro quo,

The Law Chicks