Tennessee Case Laws
Click on the below to read Tennessee Case Laws for the following years:
Tennessee Case Law
Tennessee Case Law 2012
In State v. Cox (in re Application of Cox), Case No. W2010-2510-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. August 20, 2012) held that restoration of citizenship rights did not permit a convicted felon to be licensed as a bondsman or a bondsman’s agent. Although the case involved two agents for cash bail bondsmen, the statute involved also bars a convicted felon from being a bail agent of a surety company.
Tennessee Case Law
In re Gary’s Bonding Co., Case No. M2011-00430-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. September 30, 2011) dismissed the surety’s appeal of the trial court’s order forfeiting the bond. The Court noted that although taken to the Court of Criminal Appeals, bond forfeiture matters are subject to the rules of civil procedure. The order of forfeiture was entered on June 22, 2010. The surety filed a petition for exoneration which was denied on November 22, 2010. On December 7, 2010 the surety filed a motion to quash the court’s order denying its petition for exoneration. The appeal was filed on February 9, 2011, which was within 30 days of denial of its motion to quash but more than 30 days from denial of the petition for exoneration. Pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a) the notice of appeal has to be filed within 30 days of entry of the judgment appealed from. Rule 4(b) provides that certain specific motions toll the running of the appeal period, but a motion to quash is not one of them. Therefore, the appeal had to be filed within 30 days of November 22, 2010. Since it was not, the Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
In American Bonding Co. v. Vaughn, Case No. M2010-2464-COA-R3-CV (Tenn.App. September 2, 2011) the surety secured release of the defendant and took him to his mother’s house between 10:00 p.m. and Midnight. The defendant’s mother paid the bond premium and signed an indemnity agreement as a “co-principal.” After the defendant failed to appear and the indemnitor refused to repay the surety, the surety sued for breach of the agreement. The indemnitor objected to venue in the county where the bond was posted and argued that she should be relieved of liability based on illegality, lack of mutual consent, duress, and public policy. The trial court criticized the bondsman’s actions and admonished him to reform but held that the contract was enforceable and entered judgment for the surety in the amount of the bond. The trial court refused to award attorneys fees as provided in the indemnity agreement, and both parties appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. Venue was proper in the county where the cause of action arose, i.e. the county where the bond was posted, and substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding the bondsman’s conduct did not constitute duress or coercion or a violation of public policy. The indemnity agreement provided for attorneys fees, and the Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the surety’s request for fees. The Court remanded the matter for determination of a reasonable fee.
State ex rel. Guilford County Board of Education v. Herbin, Case No. COA10-1178 (N.C.App. September 6, 2011) held that a bail agent appointed by a corporate surety can prepare motions to set aside bond forfeitures as part of his or her duties for the surety company. The agent also can appear at hearings on such motions pro se if he or she was obligated to indemnify the surety. Such activities would not be unlicensed practice of law. If the corporate surety wants to appear at the hearing in court, however, it would have to be represented by a licensed attorney.
In State v. Marin, Case No. W2009-2228-CCA-R3-CO (Tenn.Crim.App. May 9, 2011) the defendant failed to appear, and the bondsman sought to locate him. With the date for final forfeiture approaching, the bondsman moved for an extension of the final forfeiture date. The trial court held a hearing, at which the bondsman testified, and found that there was no realistic possibility that the defendant was going to be located if the extension was granted. The trial court, therefore, denied the bondsman’s motion, and the bondsman appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court held that the record supported the trial court’s conclusion and, therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the motion.
Tennessee Case Law 2010
In State v. Pena, 2010 WL 1644236 and 2010 WL 1727422 (Tenn.Crim.App. April 22, 2010) the defendant failed to appear, and after a hearing and several extensions a judgment of forfeiture was entered. The sureties appealed. A majority of the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal without prejudice because there was no signed final judgment. The dissenting Justice thought the trial court minutes were sufficient to constitute appealable judgment.
In State v. Bejar, 2010 WL 844769 (Tenn.Crim.App. March 10, 2010) the defendant failed to appear in 1996 and the surety paid the forfeiture in 1997. The defendant was not recovered, and in 2007 the State entered a nolle prosequi to close the case. The surety then moved for return of its forfeiture payment. The trial court denied relief, and the surety appealed. The Court rejected the surety’s argument that no written order of forfeiture had been entered because the court’s minutes clearly showed that the forfeiture was ordered. The Court also held that dismissing the case in 2007 did not entitle the surety to return of its payment. The surety argued that the dismissal prevented it from recovering the defendant, returning him to custody and seeking remission of the forfeiture. The surety proffered no facts that it was still trying to locate the defendant or had any realistic prospect of returning him to custody. The Court held that dismissal of the case, and thus cancellation of the warrant for the defendant, did not entitle the surety to return of its payment. The Court noted that if the surety were entitled to any relief it would be that the warrant be reinstated, not that the forfeiture payment be returned, but held that the Legislature did not intend to require that old, unprosecutable criminal cases remain on the court’s docket forever.
In Byrd v. State, 2010 WL 161500 (Tenn.Crim.App. January 15, 2010) a bail bondsman appealed from an order revoking his right to write bonds in one judicial district. The trial court found that the bondsman’s financial report was inaccurate and that he was not a credible witness. The Court of Appeals thought the trial court’s holding was not arbitrary or capricious and affirmed the order.
Tennessee Case Law 2009
In State v. Hix, 2009 WL 856852 (Tenn.Crim.App. March 31, 2009) the defendant failed to appear and a conditional forfeiture of the bond entered. The court set a show cause hearing, but neither the defendant nor the surety appeared. The surety did not request an extension of time, and the court entered a final forfeiture. Nevertheless, the surety recovered the defendant shortly afterwards and petitioned for relief from the final forfeiture. The trial court thought that the surety acted promptly after the final forfeiture but that it did not do much beforehand and that it could have requested an extension of time. The court noted that the premium for the $20,000 bond would have been $2,000, mentioned treble damages, and remitted all but $6,000 of the forfeiture. The surety appealed. The Court of Appeals reviewed the facts and held that the trial court had discretion in determining the extent of any relief granted to the surety and that it had not abused its discretion in this case. The Court affirmed the judgment remitting only $14,000 of the $20,000 bond.
In State v. Yussuf, 2009 WL 3672823 (Tenn.Crim.App. November 5, 2009) the surety appealed a judgment of forfeiture. The surety argued that the defendant fled to Sweden, based on hearsay evidence presented by the surety’s investigator, and the State refused to attempt to extradite him. The Court found that the State did not participate in the defendant’s failure to appear and the surety assumed the risk that the defendant would flee when it wrote the bond. The fact that the State was unwilling to seek extradition did not absolve the surety of its responsibility for breach of the bond. The Court affirmed the judgment of forfeiture.
Tennessee Case Law 2007
In Evans v. City of Etowah, 2007 WL 1143948 (E.D.Tenn. April 17, 2007) the mother of the absconding defendant was at home when the employees of the bail agent, assisted by the City police, arrived to recover her son. She ended up under arrest herself, and sued everyone involved for a wide range of alleged causes including violation of federal statutes, constitutional rights and state law tort claims. The bail agent and its employees moved to dismiss the suit. The court granted the motion in part but denied it in part. The court held that the involvement of the police meant the bail agents were acting under color of state law and refused to dismiss the §1983 claim but did dismiss several other federal law claims and ordered the plaintiff to amend her complaint to clarify which of her state law tort claims were asserted against the bail agent defendants.
In State v. Henry, 2007 WL 1364543 (Tenn.Crim.App. May 9, 2007) the Court agreed that T.C.A. §40-11-204(a) gave the trial court broad discretion to remit forfeitures. In this case, however, the trial court denied the surety’s motion, and the record on appeal did not include a basis to find that the trial court abused its discretion. In its brief, the surety argued that it had recovered the defendant and returned him to the sheriff, who inexplicably released him. The problem was that no such facts appeared in the record of the case. The surety included no transcripts or exhibits that would support its argument, therefore the decision of the trial court was affirmed.
Tennessee Case Law 2006
State v. Caruthers, 2006 WL 1735125 (Tenn.Crim.App. June 26, 2006) reversed on order that the bail bondsman to pay a portion of the premium to the court clerk to satisfy the defendant’s restitution obligation. The defendant had not been surrendered, a predicate to a pro rata premium refund under Tenn. Code §40-11-301. The Court of Appeals held that there was no basis to order a refund of the premium.
State v. Truitt, 2006 WL 2738876 (Tenn.Crim.App. September 21, 2006) is the second appeal seeking full or partial remittiturs of forfeitures on five bonds for a single defendant. In re AB Bonding Company, Inc., 2004 WL 2853540 (Tenn. Crim. App. December 10, 2004) refused to consider the appeal because there were no final judgments. After remand and entry of judgments, the bail bondsman appealed again. The court held that the trial court was within its discretion in denying relief from forfeiture. Although the bail bondsman’s bounty hunter eventually located the defendant, he was returned to custody almost four years after he first failed to appear and a year and a half after conditional forfeiture. Under Tenn. Code §40-11-204(a) any relief after final judgment is a matter of discretion, and here the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the bail bondsman’s motion.
Tennessee Case Law 2005
In State v. Bradley, 2005 WL 1105182 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 5, 2005) the defendant was charged in General Sessions court with several traffic offenses and released on $10,000 bond. He failed to appear and a conditional judgment was entered to forfeit the bond. He was later indicted by a grand jury for the same offenses and the Circuit Court forfeited the bond. The surety paid the forfeiture, but eventually located the defendant in jail in another state. He was returned to Tennessee and pled guilty. The Court of Appeals held that the surety was entitled to return of the forfeited amount because the bond was posted in the General Sessions court and the Circuit Court proceeding was a new action not a transfer of the General Sessions case. The Circuit Court was without jurisdiction to forfeit the bond, and its judgment of forfeiture was void. Only the General Sessions court could forfeit the bond, and it had not done so when the defendant appeared and pled guilty. This disposition of the charges against him operated to discharge his surety. Therefore, the surety was entitled to return of its $10,000.
In City Bonding Company, Inc. v. Hauther, 2005 WL 1159431 (E.D. Tenn. May 17, 2005) an established professional bail bond firm, City Bonding Company, Inc., sued a start-up firm, City & County Bail Bonding Company, Inc., for trademark infringement and unfair competition. The Court granted a preliminary injunction against the defendant’s use of a name confusingly similar to City Bonding Company.
In State v. Cabellero-Grajeda, 2005 WL 1931402 (Tenn. Crim. App. August 11, 2005) the defendant’s girlfriend pledged property in El Paso, Texas as security for the bond. The defendant was turned over to INS, which subsequently released him on another bond. After he failed to appear for trial and his bond was conditionally forfeited, the bondsman discovered that the girlfriend did not own the property in El Paso. The bondsman sought relief because the state had indicted the defendant on another, more serious charge after his release, because the girlfriend did not own the property, and because the defendant was turned over to INS. The Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the requested relief and also held that the criminal court did not have jurisdiction over the bondsman’s claim against the girlfriend.
State v. Davis, 2005 WL 2396274 (Tenn. September 29, 2005) reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals decision reported at 2004 WL 1056474 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 11, 2004) and held the bond was discharged and the surety released from liability once the defendant was convicted and sentenced. Therefore, the surety could have no responsibility for the fees and costs owed by the defendant who did not appear at a post-sentence probation hearing.
Tennessee Case Law 2004
In State v. Davis, 2004 WL 892530 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 26, 2004) the defendant was arrested for DUI and posted a $1,750 bond. He appeared as required, pled guilty and was sentenced to 48 hours in jail, the balance of a year on probation and a $350 fine. He was also ordered not to drive for a year and to appear before the court in three months for a “probation hearing.” He served the 48 hours but did not pay the fine or appear for the probation hearing. The court forfeited the bond and ordered the bondsman to pay the fine plus costs. On appeal the State and the bondsman agreed that the bond was discharged when the defendant pled guilty and was sentenced, but the court of appeals disagreed. It held that the statute relied on by the bondsman had been partially repealed by implication because in another statute enacted later the legislature allowed the court to continue the bond if a defendant is granted probation. Since the entire bond of $1,750 could be forfeit, the court had discretion to reduce the forfeiture to the amount of the fine and costs and then to apply the forfeited sum to their payment. The Court of Appeals issued a superceding opinion, State v. Davis, 2004 WL 1056474 (Tenn. Crim. App. May11, 2004), and the Supreme Court reversed the case, State v. Davis, 2005 WL 2396274 (Tenn. September 29, 2005).
In re Guy James Bonding, 2004 WL 1402562 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 23, 2004) reviewed the statutory basis for relief from forfeiture under Tennessee law. The defendant failed to appear and a conditional forfeiture was entered. The surety paid the forfeiture but subsequently recovered and surrendered the defendant. The trial court denied relief from the forfeiture on the ground that the request came too late. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that once the bail amount was paid, whether there was a final forfeiture order or not, relief could be granted under only Tenn. Code §40-11-204 and that there was no time limit for relief under that statute. The relief is equitable, however, and the party seeking it must establish a basis on which it should be granted. The case, therefore, was remanded to the trial court to hold a hearing to determine the relief, if any, to which the surety is entitled.
In Graham v. General Sessions Court of Franklin County, 2004 WL 2246195 (Tenn. Ct. App. October 5, 2004) two professional bondsmen challenged an order that bail of less than $4,400 could be made by any two owners of real property in Franklin County. The Court of Appeals held that aspect of the order violated the controlling Tennessee statute, which requires that persons guarantying bail have a net worth in excess of the bail amount, and designating the sheriff or judicial commissioner as the officials to decide whether the statutory requirements have been met.
In re AB Bonding Company, Inc., 2004 WL 2853540 (Tenn. Crim. App. December 10, 2004) dismissed the surety’s appeal of the trial court’s denial of the surety’s motion to remit forfeitures of a series of bonds for the same defendant. After the defendant failed to appear, the surety paid the full amount of the bonds and hired a bounty hunter who eventually recovered the defendant. The trial court remitted the amount of the surety’s expenses in the successful recovery effort but denied relief as to the rest of the forfeitures. The surety appealed. The Court held that the record did not include final judgments entered by the trial court against the surety, that final judgments are a necessary prerequisite to jurisdiction in the court of appeals, and that the appeal accordingly must be dismissed.