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Jeter v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

June 14, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Cicely Jaracz Lambert Chief Appellate Defender Adam Braunbeck Louisville Metro Public Defender Daniel T. Goyette Louisville Metro Public Defender.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Dorislee J. Gilbert Special Assistant Attorney General



         On September 21, 2016, Appellant, Corey M. Jeter, was arraigned by the Jefferson District Court on a charge of one count of second-degree burglary. The court set Jeter's bond at $10, 000 full cash and granted him $100 a day bail credit pursuant to KRS 431.066(5)(a). On December 20, 2016, the Jefferson County grand jury returned an indictment charging Jeter with second-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking of property valued over $500 but less than $10, 000.

         Following his indictment, on December 28, 2016, Jeter appeared for his initial hearing before the Jefferson Circuit Court, which "fixed" a bond "in the interim" at $10, 000. Formal arraignment and pre-trial conference were scheduled for February 8, 2017.

         On January 13, 2017, Jeter filed a RCr 4.40(1) motion for bond reduction, for release on bail credit for his jail time pursuant to KRS 431.066(5)(a), and, in the alternative, to release him to the Home Incarceration Program. Jeter argued that he had spent 99 days in custody accruing bail credit prior to arraignment in the Jefferson Circuit Court and was entitled to release on bail credit after 100 days pursuant to the district court's order.

         On January 17, the circuit court held a hearing to consider Jeter's motion. After consideration of the record, the circuit court denied Jeter's request to decrease his bond, and instead increased it from $10, 000 to $20, 000. full cash. Furthermore, the circuit court found that Jeter was ineligible for bail credit under KRS 431.066(5)(a) because: (1) Jeter was a flight risk due to his history of not appearing in court and (2) he was a persistent felony offender ("PFO"). See KRS 431.066(5) (b). The circuit court referred to these oral findings in its order denying Jeter's motion. They were not reduced to writing.

         Jeter appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals pursuant to RCr 4.43(1). A divided Court of Appeals upheld the trial court. In so holding, the Court of Appeals stated that the circuit court had properly increased Jeter's bond at the January 17 hearing. Citing Sydnor v. Commonwealth, 617 S.W.2d 58, 59 (Ky. App. 1981), the Court of Appeals stated that the December 20 indictment was a change in Jeter's status "sufficient to authorize the circuit court ... to summarily exercise a new discretion as to the amount of bail." Jeter appealed for discretionary review pursuant to RCr 4.43(1)(h), which this Court granted.[1]


         We review a circuit court's decision whether to modify a bail bond for an abuse of discretion. Commonwealth v. Peacock, 701 S.W.2d 397, 398 (Ky. 1985); Long v. Hamilton, 467 S.W.2d 139, 141 (Ky. 1971) ("Appellate courts will not attempt to substitute their judgment for that of the trial court and will not interfere in the fixing of bail unless the trial court has clearly abused its discretionary power.") (internal citations omitted). That is, we must analyze "whether the trial judge's decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, or unsupported by sound legal principles." Mitchell v. Commonwealth, 423 S.W.3d 152, 156 (Ky. 2014) (internal citations omitted).

         Upon indictment, jurisdiction over Jeter's bail passed from the district to the circuit court. RCr 4.54(1). Additionally, upon indictment and the issuance of a bench warrant, the circuit judge shall fix bail. RCr 6.54(1). Therefore, at the December 28 appearance, it was solely up to the circuit judge to set a new bond on the charges returned in Jeter's indictment. Here, even though the circuit judge used the peculiar term "interim bond, " he fixed a new bond at v. $10, 000. Although this circuit court bond had the same monetary value as the bond set by the district court, it was not the same bond. Furthermore, with the expiration of the district court's bond, the district court's bail credit order became moot. Because the district court bond was moot, all requirements which attended it were moot and unenforceable. Nevertheless, the circuit court considered the issue anew pursuant to Jeter's motion, but found that Jeter was not entitled to bail credit under KRS 431.066(5)(a).

         After the circuit court set Jeter's circuit court bond on December 28, 2016, the issue as to whether the grand jury's indictment was a "material change in circumstances" sufficient under Sydnor or RCr 4.42 was moot. Sydnor and RCr 4.42 only apply when a defendant has been released on bail. They embody a historic concept of fairness meant to protect an individual's liberty interest from arbitrary bond revocation and reimprisonment. As opposed to the defendant in Sydnor, Jeter was never released on bail. Therefore, the "material change in circumstances" test for bail modification never came into play. Bolton v. Irvin, 373 S.W.3d 432, 436 (Ky. 2012) ("The rule [RCr 4.42] provides additional protections for the liberty interests of a defendant who has already been granted pretrial release. It is therefore inapplicable to a defendant like [Jeter] who remained incarcerated pending trial."). The circuit judge used the indictment as a justifiable reason for modifying the bond under RCr 6.54(1). Thus, Sydnor and RCr 4.42-the primary focus of both parties' arguments-are not operative in this case.

         Bond modification is brought before a trial court through statutory and rule-based authorities. Some grant a trial court power to modify a bond suasponte, such as RCr 3.14(1), which permits a district court to modify an initial bail amount after a finding of probable cause. Others empower the court to consider modifying bond upon either ...

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