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TN Republicans file legislation to increase judicial oversight of bail

Tennessee House Republicans have filed legislation that would increase judicial oversight of bail amounts set in the most serious criminal cases in Tennessee.

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,” said bill sponsor State Rep. John Gillespie, R-Memphis. “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.”

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Concerns about violent crime suspects receiving small bonds, particularly in Shelby County, 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 $10,000 bond. In December, a suspect accused of striking another man in the head with a golf club in Memphis was released on just $5,000 bond 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.

The bill has now been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

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