After a defendant has been arrested, the law enforcement officer must take the arrested person before a magistrate, judge, justice, or clerk without unnecessary delay. Most of the time the defendant is taken before a magistrate. The magistrate must advise the defendant of the charges, his right to release, and his right to communicate with counsel and friends. The magistrate must determine conditions of pretrial release – set a bond. A bond is an amount of money that will be paid to the State if the defendant does not appear at his court appearances. The magistrate can set the following conditions for the defendant’s release in non-capital cases:
- Release on defendant’s written promise to appear – the defendant is released from jail without paying any bond or money based on his promise to appear in court on his court date
- Release on an unsecured bond – defendant is only responsible for paying the amount of the bond if he fails to appear in court. It is backed up by the defendant’s integrity, no assets or collateral is required.
- Release in the custody of a person or organization – no money is required and a person or agency has to agree to supervise the defendant
- Release on a secured bond – backed by a cash deposit in the full amount of the bond, by a mortgage, or by a least one solvent surety. A Bondsman will usually charge 10% – 20% depending on the case. The bondsman will pledge the balance to the court. If the defendant fails to appear for court, the bondsman will attempt to locate the defendant and bring him to court. The defendant does not normally get any money back from the court or the bondsman at the end of the case.
- House arrest with electronic monitoring – defendant must stay at his residence unless the court gives him permission to leave for employment, counseling, a course of study or vocational training. Defendant will be required to wear a device that allows for electronic monitoring. A secured appearance bond will also be imposed with electronic monitoring.
Mental health detainees, defendants charged with domestic violence and impaired drivers can be treated differently. Magistrates do not set bail for defendants charged with a capital offense
Bond Reduction: Judges are supposed to consider the following factors in deciding to reduce a bond that has already been set by a magistrate:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
- The weight of the evidence against the defendant;
- The defendant’s family ties, employment, financial resources, character, and mental condition;
- Whether the defendant is so intoxicated that he or she would be endangered if released without supervision;
- The length of the defendant’s residence in the community;
- The defendant’s record of convictions;
- The defendant’s history of flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings; and
- Any other evidence relevant to pretrial release.
Normally, the judge will concentrate on the nature of the offense in determining pretrial release.
New Hanover County Pretrial Release
New Hanover County is one of a number of North Carolina counties that have a pretrial services program. Bond is not normally required in this pretrial release program. Defendants are supervised to a certain degree and may have to comply with various conditions, such as reporting to a caseworker or obtain substance abuse treatment. There may also be certain kinds of excluded offenses that this program will not handle.
Bail Bondsmen Links
All American Bail Bonding http://www.wilmingtonbailbonds.com/Jailandcourts.html
Erickson Bail Bonds http://www.bailbondsncnow.com/
Shelly Bail Bonds http://shellybailbonds.com/
Pretrial Release thru Substantial Assistance
Sometimes law enforcement officers will want a defendant to provide help in charging and prosecuting someone else. This help is known as “substantial assistance”. Please remember that what you consider substantial assistance and what law enforcement officers consider substantial assistance may be two different things. It is important to have a good understanding of what is expected. Substantial means substantial. Dropping a few names is not what law enforcement considers substantial. Any information provided is first checked for accuracy to see if you are credible and telling the truth. If it looks as though you can provide substantial assistance, the State will find some way for you to be released. Be careful – being released under these conditions may turn out to be a wild ride.