Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DUI Law Causing Confusion on Bond Issues

Magistrate judges in Nashville have been holding people suspected of dui for up to five days upon arrest is some cases and are routinely holding people for 2-3 days. Such actions by magistrate judges have been widely reported in Nashville.  It appears to be based upon a misunderstanding by the magistrates about the new Tennessee DUI laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2011. 
At issue is the statute for people accused of driving under the influence for a second or subsequently offense.  Some judges have been jailing suspected repeat DUI offenders without bond because they think the law requires it.
The new law states that anyone arrested with a previous DUI shall be considered a danger to the community and can't be released on bail until the court determines that they are not a danger.  The new law directs that courts could use electronic monitoring, random drug tests and other tools to eliminate the perceived danger to the community.
The result has been that people charged with DUI 2nd in Davidson County were held in jail for up to five days. 
After attorney’s complained of these actions, Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn ordered Davidson County's night court commissioners to stop denying bond in such cases.
The state attorney general's office reports that the intent of the law is to encourage judges "to require accountability while someone charged with DUI was awaiting a court hearing."
To date, none of these kinds of problems have been reported in Chattanooga or by Hamilton County Magistrate judge's setting bail.

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