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Lannom Williams Law Group - Providing criminal defense and civil trial practice for Wilson County, Tennessee

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Lebanon, TN 37087
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Are We Going To Give Up Our Constitutional Rights This Easily?

Grundy county Tennessee is taking a controversial step to allegations of domestic assault.

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum is praising a bill that assumes guilt for anyone accused of domestic violence, while it keeps the poor who are accused and can't afford bail jailed before trial. Sheriff Shrum says he saw a problem and "started looking at the use of GPS monitoring to ensure victim safety in Grundy County".

For the past 18 months, every suspect accused of domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault or stalking in Grundy County has been required to wear a GPS monitor as part of their bond conditions. This statement of "every person accused" clarifies that proof of guilty isn't required. 

Offenders are monitored by
Tennessee Recovery and Monitoring, a private company that also provides the victims with a victim beacon in order to keep track of how close the alleged offender and alleged victim are to each other. If either of them get within a pre-determined range of each other, the monitoring company and the victim are notified using text and email.

In Grundy County, offenders must pay $10 per day for the device to stay out of jail while they wait for their case to be heard. I have found in my practice of defending those charged with domestic assault that, in most instances, there is also an upfront fee that must be paid for installation of any monitoring device.

If you have a bond that’s set at $50,000 and you can’t raise the cash, you sit in jail,” Hardaway said. “If you can’t afford the money to pay for this monitor, you ought to sit in jail.”

The Sheriff and other lawmakers want this law mandatory across the state. I must admit have encountered serious cases where the use of the device aided everyone involved and allowed a more reasonable bond to be put in place. Indeed, Sheriff Shrum states that repeat offenses are down in Grundy County.

However, we Americans must use caution when considering expansive far reaching laws such as this. Making such a law mandatory  takes away Judges' discretion to prevent the accused from staying in jail because they are poor or for relief when the allegations are minor or questionable in nature. The Sheriff fails to take into account how often domestic violence cases are dismissed completely and how many innocent people are arrested or accused. Most every police officer will tell you how often they feel compelled to make an arrest when the proof is slim or it is clearly a case of mutual combat.

My recent domestic assault cases include two brothers fist fighting in their father's garage and a spouse on heroin who accused her husband of threatening her when he tried to stop her from getting more drugs. I have represented many similar cases where the Sheriff's program would be patently unfair to the innocent accused. In 50% or more of the cases I handle, the accuser doesn't even show for court until required. The accusers often have already cleared out the alleged offender's home of valuables and solidifying the children's custody while the one accused sits in jail. 

Even victim's rights advocates have serious concerns about this law. In December of 2015, Bridges Domestic Violence Center executive director Linda Crockett Jackson told Channel 4 she's concerned the bill could be "too harsh a punishment for someone not convicted."

At some point, society will forfeit all rights of the accused if it fails to recognize that punishing people with broad mandates before a conviction is uncontitutional and results in injustice.

I am glad I don't live in Grundy County

In defense of the citizen accused,

Frank Lannom





LANNOM & WILLIAMS
137 Public Square Lebanon, TN 37087
Via Phone: (615) 444-2900 Via Facsimile: (615) 444-6516 Toll Free: (866) 820-4457

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