As often portrayed in movies, the media, and pop culture, house arrest and expensive bonds appear to be commonplace in order to post bail. However, this is not always the case. There are a multitude of ways to be released from custody and back into the community. This practice is known as “pre-trial release” and Forsyth County is leading the way in fashioning more affordable, fair bonds.
Pre-trial release is ideal for nearly all individuals accused of a crime. Of course, everyone prefers to be free as opposed to being in police custody, but it is also a guaranteed right you have in most cases in North Carolina. Pre-trial release offers additional benefits as well. A released individual can both continue to work and better assist their attorney in building a legal defense. Being able to work, provides an opportunity for an individual released, prior to trial, to maintain employment and to stay current with everyday expenses. Working, as opposed to being in custody, also provides individuals the opportunity to hire adequate legal representation. Additionally, when not in custody, an individual can more easily meet with an attorney to discuss the details of the case and allows the criminal attorney to build a stronger legal defense for the client court.
Under what conditions can one obtain pre-trial release?
North Carolina law provides guidance as to the conditions, whereby an individual may be released prior to the trial. In order to be granted pre-trial release, the court must require one of the following conditions:
- Release the individual in exchange for a written promise to appear back in court;
- Release the individual in exchange for an unsecured bond (meaning no amount of money is required for release, but if an individual fails to appear in court, he or she will owe the amount of the bond);
- Release the individual into the custody of a person or organization who agree to supervise the individual prior to the individual’s court date;
- Release the individual in exchange for a secured bond (meaning an individual must pay a certain amount of money to be released and the money is not returned if the individual fails to appear in court); or
- Release the individual, but the individual must remain on house arrest with electronic monitoring
(Pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15A-534(a).
It is important to note that the statute requires the first three conditions be considered first, as opposed to a secured bond or house arrest, unless the court determines that the individual will likely cause danger to the community, interfere with evidence in their case, or not return to court. It is vital that you have a confident and knowledgeable criminal attorney who understands these aspects of your case in order to give you the best possible chance of avoiding expensive secured bonds or secured bonds altogether.
Cases involving concerns over a defendant’s likeliness to come to court, the safety of the community, or concerns over destruction of evidence, bribing witnesses, or intimidation of witnesses are types of instances where secured bonds would be warranted. However, secured bonds are not guaranteed when these concerns are present.
At its best, a secured bond is an extra cost of defense for a defendant. At its, worst a secured bond is prematurely penalizing a defendant—especially those without the means to pay the bond. Though this unfortunate trend has become increasingly common, Forsyth County is helping to change this trend by carefully considering all the options available for pre-trial release instead of hastily imposing house arrest or secured bonds.
How will a court decide under which condition to release?
In order to determine how an individual will be released prior to trial, the court will first consider the nature of the charge.
If the individual is charged with a Class 2 or 3 misdemeanor, such as carrying a gun without a permit, concealment of goods, or shoplifting, then a written promise, custody release, or unsecured bond are recommended.
If the individual is charged with a felony or Class 1/A1 misdemeanor, the judge may consider imposing a secured bond or house arrest. However, this is not a guarantee and a confident, knowledgeable criminal attorney can work hard on your behalf to help you avoid one of these costly impositions.
In determining whether to impose a secured bond or house arrest, a judge must determine whether the defendant poses any danger to the community, if the individual is likely to tamper with evidence or witnesses, or if the individual is a potential flight risk. If the judge determines that the individual is likely to cause injury or harm to the community, tamper with the case against them, or leave the jurisdiction, the statute recommends the judge impose house arrest or secured bond against that defendant.
In determining whether or not an individual poses a risk of flight, tampering, or danger to the community, the court may consider a variety of factors, such as whether the individual has significant ties to the community or has a prior history of not being present at court dates. Additionally, the court maty consider whether the charge against the individual involved violence or domestic violence, the use of a firearm, drug distribution, gang activity, stalking/cyberstalking, an act that requires the individual to register as a sex offender, or has a DWI/history of DWI’s. Lastly, the court may consider whether the individual is impaired such that their release would likely cause damage to themselves, property, or others.
Please note that the existence of one of these factors is not a guarantee that a secured bond will be required for pre-trial release, however, these factors will likely be considered.
What can Greenwood Law do to ensure your rights in regard to pre-trial release?
As previously mentioned, the existence of one of the factors in determining the conditions of an individual’s release do not automatically require a secured bond or house arrest. There are many factors to consider, and there is much advocacy in the process of pre-trial release that a confident and knowledgeable criminal attorney can do for you.
At Greenwood Law, we have multiple attorneys with experience in advocating for proper and desirable pre-trial release. Having an attorney who understands the process of determining pre-trial release is vital to ensuring that the court will not automatically overlook the least restrictive means in granting your pre-trial release. Additionally, our attorneys will be sure that the court fairly considers the factors of your past and current charge(s) when deciding which condition to release you prior to your trial. Though Forsyth County is leading the way in properly determining conditions of pre-trial release in accordance with the statute, each case is different. At Greenwood Law our criminal attorneys can be the difference between a fair or unfair pre-trial release. We are ready, through our experience and knowledge, at Greenwood Law to assist anyone charged with a crime. Contact us if you are in need of our services in pretrial release situations and/or needing excellent criminal attorney representation at (336) 794-6138 or via our website email contact at www.dwg-law.com and we will be happy to assist you in this process.