BY KEN LITTLE
Repeat offenders charged with driving under the influence are paying more to get out of jail.
In addition, those charged with DUI who have previous convictions are also being held on no bond until they make a first court appearance. In Greene County, that appearance is before General Sessions Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr.
Bailey holds to the letter of the law, which was part of tougher DUI provisions that went into effect in 2010 and were modified last year.
Greene County General Sessions Court is held Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
That means anyone charged with DUI on a Friday afternoon who has a previous conviction can look forward to spending the weekend in the Greene County Detention Center.
If there are more serious additional charges, the time spent in jail may be longer than that.
"For a multiple-offense DUI, there is supposed to be a hearing for the judge to set the bond and bond conditions. That's why [a bond is not set] until we see them in court," Bailey said.
In some East Tennessee counties, including Knox, Sevier and Washington, judicial magistrates -- often local lawyers serving as fill-in judges -- are available on weekends and evenings to set bonds. They are paid by each county.
Greene County's budget limitations are well known, so the system does not exist here.
"When they're arrested on a multiple-offense DUI, they stay in jail until my next court hearing," Bailey said.
Those with more than one DUI conviction may also have conditions set on their release, which include reporting to a probation officer on a regular basis for alcohol and drug testing, Bailey said.
In some counties, multiple DUI offenders awaiting court are required to wear ankle bracelets that can detect alcohol use by monitoring perspiration levels.
Expenses associated with the devices can cost hundreds of dollars a month, a fact which makes Greene County an unlikely participant for the time being, Judge Bailey said.
The DUI problem, be it alcohol-related or drug-related, remains acute in Greene County and across the state
More intoxicated drivers are finding themselves behind bars.
Between 2010 and 2011, the number of DUI arrests increased by more than 2,000 statewide, according to statistics compiled by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Law enforcement agencies reported 26,340 arrests statewide in 2011, compared with 24,154 in 2010.
In the 11-county East Tennessee area covered by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the total number of DUI arrests went up almost 40 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Locally, there have been some disturbing recent reminders of the problem of repeat DUI offenders.
Marcus W. Strong, 32, of Chuckey, was behind the wheel July 19 in a crash on Chuckey Pike that took the life of 33-year-old Kiley Shelton.
Strong, a convicted Habitual Motor Vehicle offender, was charged with his seventh DUI in connection with the fatal crash. Other charges are pending.
Strong is currently being held in the Greene County Detention Center on $70,000 bond, pending a court date on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Last Wednesday, Bailey said he had one defendant in court charged with his sixth DUI, and another facing a fifth.
"I do see a lot of repeat DUI offenders," he said. "Right now, I think we're seeing more pill- and drug-related DUIs than alcohol-related DUIs.
"That's one reason we have the Drug Court -- to get them some help."
Bailey said he has bond policies for different charges "that I generally go by."
"Bonds are to secure their appearance in court.
People are entitled to a bond, the law says, unless they are a major risk to society," Bailey explained.
"If they are out on bond and commit an offense, then I can revoke the bond."
FIRST DUI USUALLY $1,000
Bond for a first DUI charge is generally $1,000. The bond amount can go up for defendants if other charges are involved, Bailey said.
The judge said he generally sets bond for a DUI-2nd charge at between $2,000 to $5,000. Bond is generally $6,000 to $10,000 for a DUI-3rd charge, he said.
For a DUI-4th charge or above, bond can be $10,000 or higher, Bailey noted.
By that time, the defendant may have been designated as a Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender, a designation which typically carries a separate $10,000 bond.
COURT STAYS BUSY
Bailey's court is busy, and not just with people charged with DUI.
In June, 648 people appeared in General Sessions Court, for an average of 54 each day court was in session. Many of the defendants were charged with multiple offenses.
In July, the number was 634, for an average of about 50 defendants per day. Through Wednesday, 347 people have appeared before Bailey this month on criminal charges.
Those numbers don't count those issued tickets for moving violations.
A total of 418 tickets were issued by law enforcement agencies in July in Greene County, said Pam Venerable, interim Greene County Circuit Court clerk.
Many of those drivers were issued multiple tickets.
The actual number who appear in court and don't pay off citation tickets beforehand is not large, but it adds to the crowded courtrooms Bailey sees three times a week.
Keeping most drivers charged with offenses such as driving on a revoked license in jail on high bond amounts isn't usually an option.
"The policy is, if they have other charges in addition to driving while revoked or suspended, they will have to post $500 or $1,000 bond on that charge.
"If there is no other charge, generally just a summons to court [is issued], not a bond," Bailey said.
Bailey said he tries to work on a case-by-case basis with individuals who get charged with driving while their license is revoked or suspended. Some can't afford to pay previous traffic fines, and their license is suspended.
It becomes "a Catch-22 situation" with some individuals who need to work to pay off court fines and need to drive to get to work.
In those cases, Bailey said he will generally give defendants time to pay outstanding fines and get their driver license reinstated.
"With the jail overcrowding situation, I try to be mindful of that for them to try and get their license back," Bailey said.