The legal terrain of North Carolina is ever-evolving, particularly with regard to criminal charges. One of the latest shifts that has caught the eye of criminal defense lawyers in Durham NC involves the recent modifications to pretrial release protocols and how bond is set.
That new criminal law in North Carolina is known as the Pre-Trial Integrity Act. It goes into effect this week on October 1, 2023, and promises to substantially affect how a bond is set for certain types of criminal charges in Durham and throughout North Carolina.
The Pretrial Integrity Act introduces significant revisions to the bond procedures and dictates who can establish the terms and conditions of release from custody for certain criminal offenses in North Carolina.
Specifically, these changes to the procedure for establishing terms and conditions for pretrial release, especially as they pertain to certain serious felonies, and alleged offenders with unrelated pending charges or more than one pending DWI charge, will be consequential.
“Many might be taken aback to learn that they could be detained for a considerable period without any way to get released, awaiting a judge’s consideration for their bond to be established,” Cole Williams, DWI Defense Lawyer in Durham NC
Unpacking the latest Bond & Bail Law in NC
Central to this transformation is the mandate that a judge, instead of a magistrate, determines pretrial release conditions for a defendant arrested for a new offense while already out on pretrial release for another charge.
This shift is further emphasized by the judge’s obligation to obtain a criminal background check and risk evaluation for the accused.
Historically, except for Domestic Violence charges in NC, a Magistrate would routinely define release terms, known as “terms and conditions of release” or “conditions of bond.”
Magistrates are constantly on standby, ready to evaluate charges and set bonds 24/7. As it relates to setting bonds or terms and conditions of release, judges in North Carolina do so during predetermined sessions of court.
Courts in North Carolina generally operate during standard business hours, approximately 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Court sessions are not held on weekends or holidays. The specific length of sessions can be longer or shorter and are greatly influenced by the docket caseload.
Put simply, the specified charges outlined in the legislation now require a judge’s attention over a Magistrate’s.
Those offenses involve some of the most serious criminal allegations in North Carolina, including but not limited to:
- N.CG.S. 14-17 – First degree murder or Second degree murder
- Attempted First degree murer or Second degree murder
- N.C.G.S. 14-39 – First degree kidnapping or Second degree kidnapping
- N.C.G.S. 14-27.21 – Forcible rape, First Degree
- N.C.G.S. 14-27.22 – Forcible rape, Second Degree
- N.C.G.S. 14-27.23 – Statutory rape – Child by adult
- N.C.G.S. 14-27.24 Statutory rape
What happens if the Court is not in session?
If a Judge isn’t available for a hearing, a Magistrate may, after a 48 Hour Hold, establish the bond and release conditions, subject to the NC criminal laws and established Bond Policies in the respective judicial districts in North Carolina.
DWI Charges in North Carolina
North Carolina’s tough, unyielding approach to driving while impaired charges, whether you call them DWI or DUI, is no secret.
The state’s enduring commitment to reducing instances of “drunk driving” is evident. Over the years, the NC DWI laws have seen consistent updates, sometimes resulting in severe and arguably overly harsh outcomes.
The revamped bond process intentionally brings a broader spectrum of people charged with DWI and other serious felony charges in North Carolina into consideration. The possible implications are concerning.
If someone, while on pretrial release gets arrested for another crime (which is generally broadly defined in North Carolina), they may be plunged into an intricate, potentially prolonged period of detention in jail.
This is a marked change from past ways of doing things.
Potential Challenges with the “Pretrial Integrity Act”
The “Pretrial Integrity Act” is not without potential pitfalls:
- Extended Detention Duration: The potential for a 48-hour hold can translate into an extended custody duration, especially during weekends or holidays when court is not open.
- Legal System Pressure: The primary objective might be to ensure comprehensive vetting before release, but this could overwhelm the system with an influx of bond hearings, potentially bogging down an already overburdened legal system in Durham NC.
DWI Defense and the Landscape in Durham, NC
Cole Williams is an experienced DWI defense attorney in Durham.
The shifts in the bond laws are somewhat disconcerting. They will have an impact in Durham, particularly in District Court where we handle a lot of bond hearings and first appearances – Cole Williams, Criminal Defense Attorney
The possible 48-hour hold could place clients in a challenging position, potentially affecting their jobs and their family commitments.
Moreover, with judges responsible for specific bail conditions, there will be a heightened need for DWI lawyers in Durham NC and other criminal defense attorneys to attend hearings, ensuring our client’s history and personal circumstances are fairly and accurately represented.
Durham’s court system, already grappling with a substantial caseload and the associated demands, will be strained.
Though the rationale behind many Pretrial Integrity Act components might be admirable, especially concerning grave felonies, the implications to other, less serious charges, deserve thoughtful scrutiny.
Striking a Balance: Justice and Public Safety
The new bond law in North Carolina purportedly aims to uphold justice and ensure public safety.
Achieving a delicate balance between the two will be difficult.
It’s imperative that people with criminal charges in Durham NC aren’t subjected to undue detention durations.
For defendants with no prior criminal record, arrest history, or criminal history, understanding the bond procedures (terms and conditions of release) and how a bond is set can be overwhelming.
Implications for Durham Criminal Charges
The repercussions of this law will. reverberate beyond just DWI charges in Durham NC.
Families will feel the brunt of prolonged detentions.
Imagine a single parent in a 48-hour hold, leaving children unattended or without anyone to care for them in the short term.
Such scenarios could inevitably lead to interactions with the NC Department of Social Services (DSS) and Child Protective Services in NC, which is consequential.
Moreover, the potential for job losses and subsequent economic struggles cannot be underestimated.
Cost implications are two-fold:
- Increased detention durations mean escalated costs for the Durham County Jail (Durham Detention Center)
- Individuals might face rising fees for legal representation, especially with bond hearings likely necessitating attorney presence, whether that be through appointment of a Public Defender or retention of a private attorney.
Navigating the Future
A balanced approach to prevent violations of Constitutional Rights is warranted.
Attorney Cole Williams, and other legal stakeholders in Durham, are primed to steer through these changes, prioritizing justice as appropriate.
Understanding DUI in North Carolina
Some people charged with impaired driving in North Carolina use the term DUI, thinking that means “Driving Under the Influence.” Others call it DWI, referring to Driving While Impaired or Driving While Intoxicated.
However, the North Carolina DWI law doesn’t use DUI or DWI in N.C.G.S. 20-138.1.
The title of the law is “impaired driving,” although there is a reference within the statute to being under the influence.
Big picture, it is illegal in North Carolina to drive (operate a vehicle) while subject to an impairing substance.
This not only includes alcohol levels above 0.08% BAC but also impairment from over-the-counter medications, legal hemp products, or prescription drugs.
If you find yourself facing criminal charge in Durham, the intricacies can be daunting. That’s why we think it’s smart to have legal counsel by your side – Cole Williams, Durham DWI Lawyer & Criminal Defense