Every citizen accused of a crime in the state of Tennessee must have a bail bond set with the exception of capital murder cases. Sometimes, citizens may not be able to post bond due to the amount or economic circumstances. What happens to your case if your loved one cannot make bail bond?
In Nashville, TN the General Sessions Court has established a docket for those cases, commonly referred to as the jail docket. The jail docket is normally held on the 3 rd floor of the A. A. Birch Building located at 408 Second Avenue North in Nashville, Tennessee. The felony jail docket will be held in courtroom 3A and the misdemeanor jail docket will be held in courtroom 3C of the A. A. Birch Building.
Once someone is arrested, their case is set on the review docket the next day at noon. The review docket is a docket in which an attempt may be made to see if certain offenses can be disposed of immediately or if the bail bond is set too high.
Next, the case will be set for a preliminary hearing within a couple days of the initial arrest. All efforts will be made to subpoena witnesses and police officers in order to prosecute the case. Sometimes, that does not happen due to the time constraints. There is an important that governs the setting of hearings on the jail docket.
Rule 5 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that a hearing must be held within ten days of a Defendant's arrest to determine probable cause that a crime was committed. For example, a case will be dismissed in Nashville General Sessions Court if they are unable to prosecute the case within ten days. One key point to remember, a dismissal at the general sessions level for failure to prosecute is not a final disposition of the case. If the case is dismissed at the general sessions level, the District Attorney can present the case to the Davidson County Grand Jury for prosecution.
What can I expect to happen at the jail docket?
As previously mentioned, the case can be dismissed due to the State's failure to prosecute. However, there are several other alternatives that may happen on the jail docket. First, if you are charged with a felony the general sessions court does not have jurisdiction to make finding that you are guilty or innocent of a charge. You are entitled to a preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and you were the person that did it. This is determined by preponderance of the evidence rather than guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The preliminary should never be waived, except under very limited circumstances.
Secondly, the case may be settled on criminal information. The assistant district attorney and the criminal defense counsel may work out a plea bargain agreement. A plea bargain agreement is the process in which the state reduces the charge or gives an agreed upon sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. The reason it is called on information is because the Court does not have to have jurisdiction to accept the plea. So, a plea bargain agreement will be reached. The assistant district attorney will draft an information agreement bypassing the grand jury and have it presented directly to criminal court to approve the plea bargain agreement.
Third, the case may be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and plead guilty on the docket and dispose of the case.
Fourth, your attorney could enter into an agreement with the district attorney's office for a bond reduction in exchange for waiving your preliminary hearing. I previously stated you should never waive your preliminary hearing. Waiving your preliminary hearing is always a bad idea unless you get something out of it. A bond reduction allowing you to get out of jail is a bargain.
Finally, your attorney can file a motion to reduce to reduce bond at the hearing on the jail docket. It is highly critical to get a lawyer early and have them involved in the case as soon as possible. Information can be gained at the jail docket that will help the case in the long run.