North Carolina recently passed the Pretrial Integrity Act, effective this month, October 2023. Since the act was only signed into law this past July, you may be unfamiliar with the ruling and all it entails. Primarily, this bill directly affects the bail bonds process, but the new ruling will ultimately reform how our justice system handles criminal cases. The new bill, while it aims to make pretrial detention fairer and more effective, comes with its set of challenges and differing views from law enforcement officials. The Off the Hook team is dedicated to keeping our clients informed about bail reform and emerging laws, so let’s dive into everything you need to know about this ruling. Is it fair? Is it not? We’ll let you be the judge.
What is the Pretrial Integrity Act?
This initiative changes how bail eligibility is determined for each defendant. It transfers the authority to establish the terms and conditions for release from a local magistrate to a district or superior court judge. The goal of this reform 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 forcible sexual offense
-Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill
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 more effectively determine the bail amount for each case (or if release should even be an option.)
Click here for a complete description of the act.
How did the system work before the Act?
Prior to the Pretrial Integrity Act, North Carolina magistrates were responsible for setting bond amounts for arrested individuals. To do so, they would take a few factors into account:
-The severity of the criminal charge
-The defendant’s danger to society
-The defendant’s likeliness to flee the area
However, there were no set parameters on bond 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 bail at any time, any day of the week. District and Superior Court judges, on the contrary, have Monday through Friday business hours and limited availability. Therefore, this change in authority will create longer holding times 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 bonds. For instance, a Fort Mill EMS worker, charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old in the back of an ambulance, was given a bond of $15,000 and bonded out less than an hour after his arrest. The concern among officials is that expedited releases for violent charges may set a poor example and encourage future crimes.
What are the concerns with the new ruling?
As stated before, the main concern of this act is the 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 a weekend, holidays, evening, etc…), then a magistrate will be allowed to take the case and set a bond. Essentially, people charged with certain felonies (listed above) 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 multiples 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 the system fairer and more effective for everyone involved. But, like most rulings and reforms, challenges can arise. Regardless of how this new law plays out, our Off the Hook team is always here to help you or a loved one in holding. Together, we’ll navigate this new bail process, one step at a time.
If you or your loved one has recently been arrested, expert support is only a phone call away.
At Off the Hook Bail Bonds, we know your time is valuable and our mission is to get you out of a holding cell and back to the comfort of your own home. Our skilled bond agents are on call 24/7, working tirelessly to provide our clients with the best possible support during this difficult time. From flexible payment options to expert guidance and service, Off The Hook Bail Bonds can be a truly invaluable resource for you or your loved ones. Get out of jail and back to your life – call us today for help!