North Carolina recently passed the Pretrial Integrity Act that became effective October 1st of this year. While this bill primarily affects the bail bonds process, this ruling will extend how our justice system handles criminal cases. The new bill aims to make pretrial detention fairer and more effective. However, as with any new initiative, this act comes with its set of challenges and differing views from law enforcement officials. At the Gross Law Group, we’re dedicated to keeping our clients informed about North Carolina law, so let’s dive into everything you need to know about this ruling.
What is the Pretrial Integrity Act?
In layman’s terms, the Pretrial Integrity Act changes how bail eligibility is determined and who is qualified to make this determination. Previously, local magistrates were allowed to set the conditions for a defendant’s release and assign an amount for their bail. The new act transfers this responsibility from a magistrate to a district or superior court judge. The goal of this change is to prevent violent or dangerous offenders from being released on bail shortly after arrest. This new ruling will apply to defendants charged with a serious felony crime such as:
- First-degree murder
- Second-degree murder
- First-degree forcible sexual offense
- Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.
Essentially, the act encourages the judge to take a longer deliberation period before setting bail. They are given a comprehensive list of the defendant’s background, prior arrests, and current charge details to help determine whether defendant release should be an option, and, if so, set an appropriate amount for bail.
Click here for a complete description of the act.
How did the system work before the new bill?
Before the Pretrial Integrity Act, North Carolina magistrates were responsible for setting bail amounts. To do so, they would take a few factors into account: the severity of the criminal charge, the defendant’s danger to society, and the defendant’s likeliness to flee the area.
However, there were no set parameters on bail amounts for a specific crime. This means that bail and release conditions were solely based on the discretion of the magistrate.
The advantage of using a magistrate for bail proceedings is they have 24/7 availability. A magistrate can assign a bail amount at any time and on any day of the week. District and Superior Court judges, on the other hand, have Monday through Friday business hours and limited availability. Therefore, this change in authority will create longer holding periods for defendants.
What events motivated this new ruling?
Police Chiefs and District Attorneys throughout the state have publicly supported the new bill after suspects charged with serious crimes were given low bail amounts. For instance, an EMS worker charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old in the back of an ambulance was given a bond of $15,000 and released less than an hour after his arrest. The concern among police officials is that expedited releases for violent charges may encourage future crimes.
What are the concerns with the new ruling?
Stated previously, the main concern of this act is the issue of an extended detention period for offenders. After an individual is arrested, the district or superior court judge has a 48-hour window to assign bail. If no judge is available during this time (such as on weekends and holidays), a magistrate will then be allowed to take the case and set a bond. Essentially, people charged with certain felonies will likely have a 2-3 day holding period, instead of an expedited release. Officials who are against the act insist that jails do not have the capacity to hold more inmates. Additionally, there’s worry that the new ruling will strain the legal system. Having a judge assign bail will increase the number of court appearances which increases the need for lawyers, defense counsels, court clerks, and prosecutors to be present at these hearings. This trickle-down effect will create additional costs and expenses for local counties and municipal courts.
Overall, the Pretrial Integrity Act represents a step forward in the reform of North Carolina’s criminal justice system and has the potential to make it fairer and more effective for everyone involved. As this law is implemented and its effects unfold, the Gross Law Group will be here with you every step of the way, keeping you updated on new changes to our state’s legal processes. Stay strong, stay informed.
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS? CALL THE GROSS LAW GROUP TODAY
The Pretrial Integrity Act will extend into several facets of North Carolina law. If you’re charged with any of the crimes impacted by this act call a criminal defense lawyer in Wilmington, NC who can ensure your rights are protected. Choose The Gross Law Group led by former police officer and experienced legal advocate, Attorney David K. Gross, for expert criminal defense. Protect your future with personalized attention and aggressive representation. Contact us now. 910.666.0693