Cash Bonds: A thing of the past?

You’ve been arrested. As you go through the motions of being processed through the system, possibly for the first time you are probably wondering how you can get out of jail. What’s next?

Depending on the charge, within 48 hours you will be brought before a judge or magistrate to determine your pretrial release. In the case of non-capitol cases or non-domestic violent cases, bail is set immediately. There are several different types of release that a judge or magistrate can set.

The procedures for determining the conditions of pretrial release are set forth at NCGS §15A-534. The judge or magistrate must impose one of the following conditions:
(1) Release the defendant on his written promise to appear.
(2) Release the defendant upon his execution of an unsecured appearance bond in and the amount specified by the judicial official.
(3) Place the defendant in the custody of a designated person or organization agreeing to supervise him.
(4) Require the execution of an appearance bond in a specified amount secured by a cash deposit of the full amount of the bond, by a mortgage pursuant to G.S. 58-74-5, or by at least one solvent surety.
(5) House arrest with electronic monitoring.

Unless the judge or magistrate determines that the defendant will not show up for court, poses a danger to the community or will result in the destruction of evidence or intimidation of a witness, the statute allows for the release of the defendant. However, in some instances such as when a person has been charged with a felony the position of the court is to impose a secured bond to create a financial incentive to ensure that the defendant, if able to meet the bond, shows up to court. A secured bond may not seem to be a big deal, however, for most coming up with a chunk of money in a short period of time may be daunting. Nonetheless, the most commonly imposed pretrial release condition is the secured bond.

There are plenty of consequences for imposing the cash bond, especially for those who are the sole provider for their families, single mothers, and those who are indigent. Many states have begun bail reform efforts, such as California, who voted to get rid of cash bonds starting this year. North Carolina is also taking steps to reform its cash bond system. In September 2015, Chief Justice Mark Martin convened the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice requesting a comprehensive and independent review of North Carolina’s court system and recommendations for improving the administration of justice in North Carolina. (see report:https://nccalj.org/…/nccalj_criminal_investigation_and_adju…).

On January 1, 2019, Haywood and Jackson county began new procedures to reform the bail system. One of the new procedures is that defendant’s arrested on misdemeanors charges, Class H or I felonies, or probation violations are provided a first appearance within 72 hours of arrest or the first regular session of district court whichever is first. The hope is that this will alleviate those charged with misdemeanors from languishing in jail for weeks because of the inability to meet the bond set by the magistrate and allow those who are charged with felonies or probation violations access to counsel sooner. ( See Bail Reform in North Carolina—Pilot Project: First Appearances for All Defendants:https://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/bail-reform-in-north-car…/)

Another procedure that the pilot program has implemented is “Citation in lieu of arrest” for misdemeanors. Under this procedure, officers are provided a pocket card similar to the Miranda warning card. The card encourages officers to issue a citation unless one of the listed circumstances are present. (Cite or Arrest Pocket Card).

The pilot program evaluation period will run to the end of the calendar year. The success or failure of the program could impact North Carolina’s other 98 counties. However, since each county runs its own court system it is yet to be seen whether any changes to the cash bail system will be made across the board.

Until then, if you reside in a county that has not made any changes, hiring an attorney can possibly help in reducing the cost of the bond by requesting a lower bond. Contact the Law Offices of Anna Smith Felts, PLLC and we will be happy to talk with your or a family member about your bond.

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