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Posted: 5:43 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. —
Some lawmakers in Raleigh want to limit who can get out of jail without posting bond.
Most judges and prosecutors are against the plan even though it would keep more people in jail.
The pretrial release program allows hundreds of people to walk out of the Mecklenburg County Jail for free every year.
However, in December, bondsman Jim Camp completed research that showed almost 1 in 4 people who are given a free pass do not show up for court.
Senate bill 756 would change that by taking away state funding for pre-trial release and putting limits on who can get out of jail without posting bond.
Not surprisingly, the bill has drawn criticism from defense attorneys.
“What they’re really doing is selling freedom,” said Kevin Tully, Mecklenburg County’s chief public defender.
He said the bill would unfairly hurt those people who cannot afford to pay a bondsman.
But the bill also has some surprising critics, including the state’s district court judges.
“I think there are also some significant constitutional issues, due process issues, of holding a person,” said district court judge Lisa Bell.
Bell said by contrast, the pre-trial program actually provides judges with important information about defendants they may not get if they were released on bond.
Mecklenburg County’s District Attorney said the pretrial system makes sense and saves dollars.
“What it does is keep low-level offenders from spending a night, two nights, three nights in jail at $120 a night,” Andrew Murray said.
The bill is currently in an appropriations committee, which means lawmakers have a few days to vote on it if it is going to become law this year.
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