The legal landscape in North Carolina is continually evolving, and one of the recent adjustments that has garnered considerable attention from lawyers in Raleigh NC are the changes to pretrial release from jail and the related bond procedures.
These amendments to the procedure for determining terms and conditions for pretrial release, particularly as they affect those charged with DWI (Driving While Impaired) offenses, are significant.
It’s called the “Pretrial Integrity Act” and with it comes substantial changes to how a bond is set and who may set terms and conditions of release from jail for certain criminal charges in North Carolina.
A lot of people are going to be surprised when they find out they may be spending a day or more in jail, without any way to get out, waiting to see a Judge even to have a bond set – John Fanney, DWI Lawyer Raleigh NC
Understanding the New Criminal Law in NC
At the heart of this change lies the requirement for a judge, rather than a magistrate, to determine pretrial release conditions if a defendant is arrested for a new offense while already on pretrial release for another.
This change is compounded by the added responsibility for the judge to procure a criminal history report and risk assessment of the defendant.
In the past, except for Domestic Violence charges in NC, a Magistrate would often set terms and conditions of release. Magistrates are available to review the charging documents and set bonds 24/7.
Certain offenses set forth in the new law(s) are now limited by who can set a bond and when.
If covered under the legislation, which goes into effect October 1, 2023, some offenses will require the attention of a Judge, rather than a Magistrate.
If the matter cannot be heard by a Judge, a Magistrate may set a bond and terms and conditions of release at the expiration of a “48 Hour Hold.”
It is worth noting that amendments to N.C.G.S. §15A-533 and §15A-534 have specific implications for certain people with more than one pending DWI charge in NC.
Impact on DWI Defendants
It’s no secret that North Carolina has stringent DWI laws.
The state’s commitment to curbing “drunk driving” is longstanding. The NC DWI laws have been subject to nonstop amendments for decades, often resulting in harsh, sometimes unfair, results.
The updated bond procedure intentionally casts a wider net that affects certain DWI defendants in a somewhat disconcerting manner.
Here’s why: If someone is arrested for a new offense other than a DWI while on pretrial release for a DWI charge, they might find themselves in a unique and challenging situation.
They could be held in custody for up to 48 hours with no possibility of securing release without a judge setting the conditions for their pretrial release.
This is a significant departure from previous norms.
Potential Problem Areas: The “Pretrial Integrity Act”
With the “Pretrial Integrity Act” comes the potential for some serious issues, particularly as it relates to DWI offenders.
- Extended Detention Time: The first and most glaring issue is the potential 48-hour detention period. While this might seem straightforward on paper, the real-life implication is that individuals could be stuck in custody for extended periods. This becomes particularly problematic if the arrest happens over a weekend or during holidays when the court’s operation might be slow or non-operational.
- DWI-specific Exceptions: The law is explicit in its exceptions for certain DWI-related offenses. This means individuals charged under these specific statutes might spend more time in jail than some felony offenses.
- Strain on the Legal System: While the intent behind the law might be to ensure that repeat offenders or those with a history of crime are adequately vetted before release, it will very likely strain the legal system with a substantial increase in the number of bond hearings, potentially slowing down other court processes.
DWI Defense Lawyers in Raleigh NC
As a DWI defense attorney, this new change is worrisome for several reasons. Primarily, our role is to ensure that our client’s rights are upheld, and they receive a fair and just legal process.
The potential 48-hour wait period places our clients in a precarious situation, potentially impacting their jobs, family responsibilities, and overall well-being.
Furthermore, with judges handling these specific bail conditions, there’s an increased necessity for DWI attorneys to be present during these hearings, ensuring that our clients’ histories, characters, and specific circumstances are adequately represented and considered.
That will take court time, which in Wake County, is already overburdened.
Was the new Bond Law in North Carolina needed?
Understanding the logic behind other aspects of the “Pretrial Integrity Act” is less problematic as it applies to the extremely serious felonies also impacted by the legislation, including but not limited to:
- 1st or 2nd Degree Murder
- Attempted 1st Degree Murder
- Rape Charges (1st and 2nd Degree)
- Human Trafficking
- Sex Offenses (1st and 2nd Degree)
- 1st Degree Arson
- 1st Degree Burglary
- Robbery with a Firearm / Dangerous Weapon
North Carolina wants to ensure that those who might pose a substantial threat to society are appropriately vetted.
The focus on a defendant’s criminal history seeks to differentiate between first-time offenders and those with a pattern of criminal behavior.
The overall intention of the law might be commendable, but its application and impact on DWI in NC is still something that requires careful consideration – John Fanney, DWI Lawyer Raleigh NC
It’s essential to understand that there are more nuances in this situation than meets the eye.
Balancing Justice with Public Safety
The goal of this law is to ensure justice is done and public safety is maintained. The challenge lies in striking the right balance between these two.
It’s vital that those who are charged with DWI offenses, and other potentially serious crimes, are not held for excessive periods of time without any means to secure their release.
These new adjustments could be daunting, especially for those who find themselves at the crossroads of the legal system for the first time and do not understand how bond works in North Carolina.
What the NC Bond Law means for the Average Citizen
The ripple effect of this law could extend beyond just people charged with DWI in Wake County NC.
The families of those detained will grapple with the absence of their loved ones. This could mean a single parent detained for 48 hours, leaving children without a primary caregiver.
In such an instance, it is not difficult to anticipate a referral to the NC Department of Social Services / Child Protective Services. That’s a big deal.
Furthermore, some people facing charges could face the potential of job loss and the resulting financial troubles.
It’s going to be expensive
Longer detention means increased costs, as housing inmates isn’t cheap.
This could translate to increased financial pressure on the Wake County Detention Center (Jail).
On the personal front, individuals will also likely face increased legal fees, especially if their attorney needs to be present for bond hearings required to be set before a Judge, rather than a Magistrate.
If the accused is represented by appointed counsel (or a Public Defender in Raleigh NC), they too will likely need to be present for bond hearings. That too will be expensive.
Potential Solutions and a Way Forward
While the law’s intent to ensure safety and appropriate vetting is laudable, there needs to be a balance to prevent undue hardships. Here are some potential solutions:
- Streamlined Process: One way to prevent undue delay is to have a streamlined process, ensuring that judges are available to rule of matters involving pretrial release in North Carolina, especially during weekends and holidays. That presently is not an option in Wake County. Judges generally don’t hold court on weekends, holidays, and/or outside standard business hours in NC, magistrates do.
- Case-by-Case Consideration: While the law does make exceptions for certain offenses, there’s room for a more nuanced approach. Considering the nature of the new offense in conjunction with the previous one might provide a more comprehensive view of the defendant’s potential risk.
- Increased Resources: If judges are to handle these cases, then an increase in resources, both in terms of manpower and infrastructure, might be necessary. That would necessarily include detention staff (bailiffs / courtroom deputies), Clerks of Court, Prosecutors, and Public Defenders. This would help ensure that the system isn’t overburdened and that individuals don’t face unnecessary delays.
- Educating the Public: One way to mitigate the potential negative implications of this law is to educate the public. If individuals are aware of these changes, they can make informed decisions and be more cautious, potentially avoiding situations that might lead to subsequent arrests while on pretrial release.
Fanney Law Firm – Wake County DWI Lawyers
Criminal laws are a reflection of society’s evolving norms and values. While they seek to ensure order and safety, it’s essential to review and revise them continually to ensure they remain just and equitable.
The recent changes to bail and bond in North Carolina are a testament to this evolution.
As we move forward, it’s crucial for all stakeholders – from defense lawyers to the general public – to be proactive, engaged, and informed – John Fanney, Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney
Together, we can navigate these changes, ensuring that justice remains at the forefront of all our legal processes.
What is DUI in North Carolina?
DUI is a term many use to refer to the offense of Driving Under the Influence. North Carolina does not use DUI or DWI or “drunk driving” in N.C.G.S. 20-138.1, the NC DWI Law.
Impaired driving sets forth that it’s illegal to drive or be in physical control of any vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or above. Therefore, it is against the law in North Carolina to be under the influence of an impairing substance. That would include a BAC for alcohol of .08 or higher.
But it’s also illegal to be “appreciably impaired” by any impairing substance, whether that be alcohol or prescription medications or over-the-counter substances and even legally purchased and consumed hemp-based products.
If you’ve been charged with DWI in Wake County, it can get pretty complicated. That’s why we think it’s a good idea to have an experienced lawyer standing by your side.
The DWI lawyers at Fanney Law Firm in Raleigh NC can explain your legal rights. We’ll review your best-case and worst-case scenarios. We’ll also explain the technical legal jargon to help you understand your charges.
Helpful Information about DWI Charges in Raleigh NC
- The new NC Bond Law
- 5th Amendment Rights? Should I Talk to Police?
- DWI Charges in Raleigh: Straight Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- Understanding Death by Vehicle Charges
- Should I Blow – DWI Breath Tests
- Over the Limit Under Arrest
- Open Container Laws: What you Need to Know
- How Do Traffic Tickets Affect Your License and Insurance Points in North Carolina
- How Does Bail and Bond Work in North Carolina?
- DWI Charges in Franklin County NC
- DWI Charges in Wake County, North Carolina