Tennessee Supreme Court Rules Surety Remains Obligated On Bond Posted For Defendant’s DUI Second Arrest When Defendant Later Indicted for DUI Fourth

December 23, 2019

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that a person who posted bond for a defendant, known as a surety, remains obligated even if the original charge was driving under the influence second offense and the subsequent indictment was for driving under the influence fourth offense.

On October 4, 2015, Saul Aldaba was arrested and charged with driving under the influence second offense, a Class A misdemeanor, and driving on a revoked license, a Class B misdemeanor.  The magistrate in the General Sessions court assigned each of the two charges a separate case number and set bond at $7,500 for the driving under the influence second offense charge and at $2,500 for the driving on a revoked license charge.  That same day, Rader Bonding Company, Inc. posted bond totaling $10,000 for both charges as surety for the defendant. Later, the General Sessions court bound the case over to the Davidson County Grand Jury, which indicted the defendant on five counts including driving under the influence fourth or subsequent offense, a Class E felony, and driving on a revoked license, a Class B misdemeanor.

When the defendant later failed to appear, the trial court entered a conditional judgment of forfeiture of the $10,000 bond against the defendant and Rader and ordered the defendant and Rader to appear within 180 days and establish why the judgment should not become final.  When Rader appeared, it argued that the State had abandoned the original charges that Rader was obligated to under the bond agreement when it obtained the indictment. The trial court disagreed and entered a final judgment of forfeiture against the defendant and Rader in the amount of $10,000 plus costs.

Rader appealed, and a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that Rader remained obligated on the $2,500 bond for the driving on a revoked license charge, but overturned the trial court’s order to the extent that it ruled Rader remained obligated on the $7,500 bond for the driving under the influence charge.  One judge dissented and would have affirmed the trial court and held that Rader remained obligated on the full amount of the bond.

The Supreme Court reversed the majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s order that ruled Rader remained obligated on the $7,500 bond for the driving under the influence charge. The Supreme Court reasoned that no statutory disposition had occurred that would have relieved Rader from forfeiture and explained that the charge of DUI in the warrant and the indictment were the same, even though the punishment differs for second offense and fourth offense DUI.  The Supreme Court otherwise affirmed the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision that Rader remained obligated on the $2,500 bond for the driving on a revoked license charge.

To read the unanimous opinion in In Re: Rader Bonding Company, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, go to the opinions section of TNCourts.gov