Quite a few eyebrows were raised when Travis Reinking, the man who allegedly killed four people in a Nashville area Waffle House, was initially booking on a $2 million bond following his arrest. That meant that, potentially, Reinking could be out of jail if someone was willing to post ten percent of that amount, give or take $200,000.
Another judge corrected that error earlier this week, revoking Reinking’s bond, and insuring he will remain in custody until at least May 7. So why was his bond revoked? And why do judges generally revoke bail?
Bail is the criminal justice system’s way of attempting to ensure that a criminal defendant stands trial for their crimes. It is a somewhat antiquated and deeply flawed system that more often than not ends up punishing low-income defendants who can’t pay to secure their release. The bail reform movement is afoot, and the end of money bail may soon be upon us.
But until then, judges and courts will set bail amounts for criminal defendants based on several factors. Predetermined bail schedules, the seriousness of the crime, the suspect’s criminal history, their ties to the community, the potential public safety risk, and whether the defendant is a flight risk all come into play when setting the amount of bail. But they can also be considered when trying to decide whether bail is appropriate in the first place.
There are generally two reasons a judge might not set a bail amount. The first is a determination that the person can safely be released on their own recognizance. At the other end of the spectrum is a decision that the person is either too dangerous or too much of a flight risk to release, regardless of the amount of bail, and thus their bond is revoked and they must remain in jail awaiting trial.
Reinking, in this case, has a history of erratic and criminal behavior even excluding the mass shooting, and may have had access to more firearms. (Illinois authorities rescinded Reinking’s gun possession rights, but those guns went to his father, who later returned them to his son.) All could have been factors in deciding that he could not be released.
At least, not yet. As noted above, Reinking’s first court appearance is in early May, during which he and his attorneys could argue for a bail amount to be set. Whether the judge agrees or not, remains another story.