New Tennessee bill would increase judicial oversight of bail amounts in serious criminal cases

John Gillespie represents House District 97, which includes part of Shelby County. He serves as...
John Gillespie represents House District 97, which includes part of Shelby County. He serves as vice-chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee and is also a member of the Education Administration Committee, Health Committee, Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Higher Education Subcommittee.(Tennessee House Republican Caucus)
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 2:25 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - State Rep. John Gillespie, R-Memphis, has filed legislation to increase judicial oversight of bail amounts set in the most serious criminal cases.

House Bill 830 would allow only a criminal or circuit court judge to set bail in cases involving an individual charged with a Class A or a Class B felony. Currently, bail can also be set by a judicial commissioner or a criminal or circuit court clerk.

“These serious crimes deserve the most intense scrutiny, especially since these decisions could result in potentially dangerous individuals being released back into our communities,” Gillespie said. “This legislation would bring more transparency and accountability to the bail process by ensuring that only elected judges, not appointed judicial commissioners, are making these important public safety decisions.”

Concerns about violent crime suspects receiving small bonds have grown in recent months.

Last fall, the suspect charged with fatally shooting a 15-year-old girl in Millington was released from jail within 24 hours on a $10,000 bond. Another suspect in an unrelated case who is accused of striking a man in the head with a golf club was released on just a $5,000 bond in December while the victim remained on life support at a local hospital.

A first-degree murder suspect was also recently released from custody due to what was later described as a “mistake” and a “process error.” He was later taken back into custody by authorities without incident.

“This is about keeping the public safe,” Gillespie said. “We must ensure that suspects accused of committing violent crimes are not allowed to so easily walk free and potentially victimize others while their case is pending in court.”

Additional information about House Bill 830 can be found here.

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