I recently finished a new Administration of Justice Bulletin on Pretrial Release in Criminal Domestic Violence Cases. It is available here as a free download. Through a series of questions and answers, the bulletin discusses pretrial release generally; examines the special rules of pretrial release for domestic violence cases; and explores the mechanics of the 48-hour rule, the impact of violations of these special pretrial release rules, and questions on limitations of authority.
I previously blogged about the new misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, which will take effect on December 1, 2023. For the new offense, codified as G.S. 14-32.5, a person is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor if that person uses or attempts to use physical force, or threatens the use of a deadly weapon, against another person. The person who commits the offense must have a covered relationship with the victim, as specified by the statute.
While both the new misdemeanor domestic violence statute (G.S. 14-32.5) and the existing domestic violence pretrial release statute (G.S. 15A-534.1) require both a covered offense and a qualifying relationship, the requirements do not mirror one another. This post explores the interplay between the relationships listed under G.S. 14-32.5 and G.S. 15A-534.1.
The Pretrial Integrity Act has been in effect for one month now and has generated several questions about the implications of the new provisions. Some of the most frequently asked questions stem from probation violations, particularly how arrests for probation violations are treated under the new law. This post briefly addresses the two most common questions in this context.
The School of Government has published a new resource on initial appearances and pretrial release. Although any judicial official is authorized to preside at an initial appearance, in most cases that official is a magistrate. This guide addresses pretrial release only in the context of magistrates’ authority and limitations.
Last month, my colleague Jeanette Pitts blogged about the new Pretrial Integrity Act enacted under S.L. 2023-75 (H 813). Since the bill was passed, I have gotten a few questions about potential issues that might arise once it goes into effect on October 1. This post addresses some of those concerns.
In January 2020, North Carolina’s Second Judicial District (Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties) implemented two consensus bail reform initiatives. First, they implemented a structured decision-making tool for magistrates to use when making bail decisions. Among other things, the tool:
- creates a presumption for conditions other than a secured bond for people charged with Class 3 misdemeanors;
- provides screening factors to quickly identify individuals charged with intermediate-level cases (defined by local policy to include Class A1 – 2 misdemeanors and Class F – I felonies) who can be released on a condition other than a secured bond;
- affords those charged with Class A – E felonies no special presumptions or screening; and
- embeds within the decision-making process the statutory requirement that conditions other than a secured bond must be imposed absent a risk of non-appearance, injury to any person, or interference with the criminal proceeding.
Second, stakeholders implemented new first appearances for individuals detained on misdemeanor charges to ensure timely judicial review of bail.
These reforms were developed by a stakeholder team including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, magistrates, and law enforcement leaders. One of the team’s goals was to reduce pretrial detentions of individuals who do not pose a pretrial risk but are detained due to inability to pay bail. The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab supported stakeholders in the development and implementation of reforms and, with support from local stakeholders, conducted an empirical evaluation of their implemented reforms. We recently released a final report (here) on that evaluation. This post summarizes key findings.
In an earlier bulletin, I discussed the possibility that state habeas petitions could emerge as a remedy for medically vulnerable prisoners in North Carolina, as they have in other states (most notably New York). While it remains too early to tell how North Carolina courts will respond, there have been some important developments in recent weeks, as a number of prisoners have asked courts to consider their petitions. This post explores the status of two of those cases and related legal issues regarding the viability of state habeas as a remedy for prisoners uniquely endangered by COVID-19.
In late 2019, bail litigation came to North Carolina. I have written before about successful federal bail litigation in other jurisdictions, including a decision holding that the bail system in Harris County, Texas was unconstitutional. Similar litigation is now underway in our state, and appears to be headed towards a consent preliminary injunction.
In 2018, a national survey asked Americans what they thought of our pretrial justice systems. Their responses? Strong support for expanded pretrial release. The survey was done by a bipartisan team of pollsters on behalf of Pew Charitable Trusts. See The Pew Charitable Trusts, Americans Favor Expanded Pretrial Release, Limited Use of Jail (2018). Here are my top six take-aways from the survey, along with related survey data, explanatory text and graphs, which come directly from the Pew report (all attribution to Pew).
Under state law, pretrial conditions must be set after a defendant is arrested for a crime, and this typically occurs at the initial appearance before a magistrate. G.S. 15A-511. Although state statutes express a preference for non-financial conditions (written promise to appear, custody release, and unsecured bond), G.S. 15A-534(b), secured bonds are the most commonly imposed pretrial condition in North Carolina. See Jessica Smith, How Big a Role Does Money Play in North Carolina’s Bail System (July 2019). Much has been written about the problems of using money to detain pretrial, including the unfairness of incarcerating people not because they are risky but because they are poor. Thus, in discussions about procedural reform, there is interest in making sure that law enforcement and court officials only execute or order arrests in cases where arrest is in fact required. If, in low-level cases for example, the officer opts for a citation instead of a warrantless arrest or the magistrate opts for a summons instead of an arrest warrant, the defendant simply is directed to appear in court to answer the charges. Since the defendant is not taken into custody, there is no initial appearance or setting of conditions, which again, skew towards secured bonds and create the potential for wealth-based detentions and other negative consequences. This explains why stakeholders are looking at citation and summons in lieu of arrest policies, either as stand-alone reforms or as part of broader bail reform efforts. As stakeholders explore these matters, they are asking questions about the prevalence of citation and summons use in their communities. In a paper here, we present data regarding citation usage in North Carolina. In this paper, we focus on usage of the criminal summons.