DA addresses ongoing problem with domestic violence in Washington County

Published 11:16 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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First Judicial District Attorney Steven Finney in a letter to law enforcement agencies in Washington County, and shared with the news media, addressed the ongoing domestic violence problem in the county. He admonished officers to do their due diligence while making domestic violence arrests.

The DA said the purpose of the letter was to inform law enforcement officers  of the Tennessee Code regarding the due diligence to determine a person’s criminal activity. Finney stressed the importance of officers researching a person’s arrest history and previous failures to appear in court offenses when making out the arrest report.

The letter was sent to agencies “in light of our ongoing problem with domestic violence and repeat pending offenders in our community and court systems,” according to Finney.

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Finney asked that officers and deputies place a suspect’s most recent pending domestic assault arrest in their affidavit filed with the court. Officers and deputies are then asked to inform the night clerk of that information as well.

“Once informed, the night clerk can call a General Sessions Court Judge to set the appropriate bond,” Finney wrote.

Under Tennessee law, a night clerk can only set bonds for misdemeanors up to $1,000, which Finney described as “simply not appropriate.”

The DA in his letter listed the right to bail and the maximum amounts under Tennessee. Except as provided by law, in no event may a clerk set the amount of the bail in excess of $1,000 if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor; $10,000 if the defendant is charge with a felony that does not involve a crime committed against a person; $50,000 if the defendant is charged with a felony that involves a crime committed against a person; and $100,000 if the defendant is charged with some form of homicide.

Also, Tennessee laws declares that after an officer arrests a person, but prior to the determination of bail for the arrest offense by the judge or magistrate, the arresting officer or the officer’s agency must exercise due diligence in determining the existence of any prior arrest or conviction, and the results of the investigation must be made a part of the person’s law enforcement file.

The letter by DA Finney was sent to the Washington County Sheriff, ETSU Public Safety, Johnson City Police Dept., and Jonesborough Police Dept.