Reference Number: 
CTAS-454

Constables are optional officers.  In counties where they exist, they all may serve civil process. In some counties, designated by narrow population class in the general law at T.C.A. § 8-10-108(b), the constable has law enforcement powers and, therefore, may enforce the criminal laws of this state. T.C.A. § 8-10-109.  A county legislative body may, by adopting a resolution by two-thirds majority vote at two consecutive meetings, abolish the office of constable for that county or set the term of office for the constable at either two or four years.  Any change would not be effective until the end of the current term being served by the constable. T.C.A. § 8-10-101.  Also, a county legislative body may, by adopting a resolution by two-thirds majority vote at two consecutive meetings, remove any law enforcement powers exercised by the constables of the county.  Unlike the abolition of the office by the county legislative body, the removal of law enforcement powers may take effect with the adoption of the resolution.  In addition to these optional procedures, several counties, by population class exceptions, are exempt from portions of the constable law or have abolished the office of constable entirely.  The specific statute should be consulted for provisions applicable to each individual county.  T.C.A. § 8-10-101 et seq.

Constables are elected from districts established by the legislative body subject to the following limitations: the number of constables elected cannot exceed one-half the number of county commissioners and constable districts must be reasonably compact and contiguous and must not overlap.  T.C.A. § 8-10-101.  Constables must have the following qualifications:

  1. 21 years old,
  2. A qualified voter of the district,
  3. Ability to read and write,
  4. No felony convictions, and
  5. No armed forces discharge other than honorable. 

A candidate must file an affidavit stating that he or she meets these qualifications with the county election commission along with the nominating petition. T.C.A. § 8-10-102.  There are also permissive specifications regarding uniforms and car markings. T.C.A. §§ 8-10-119, 8-10-120.  Prior to taking office, constables must, at their own expense, enter into a surety bond of not less than $4,000 nor more than $8,000, at the legislative body's discretion.  T.C.A. § 8-10-106.  Constables' duties may be limited to serving civil process or may include peacekeeping duties; the oath of office differs according to the nature of the duties.  T.C.A. 8-10-108.  The duties of the constable are determined according to the population classification of the particular county under T.C.A. §§ 8-10-108 and 8-10-109, unless the county legislative body has acted to remove law enforcement powers.  The legislative body may fill any vacancy by temporary appointment until it is filled by an election. T.C.A. § 5-1-104.

For their official bonds, constables must use a surety company authorized to do business in Tennessee. T.C.A. § 8-10-106.  The constable pays all of the costs of obtaining and recording the official bond for his or her office.  T.C.A. § 8-10-106.