NC bill would change who issues bail for certain offenses

CHARLOTTE — Police around Charlotte have been calling for action in the wake of repeat-offenders being released on bail bonds, and now North Carolina legislators are responding with a new bill that would change how bail gets issued for certain accused criminals.

When someone gets arrested, they’re sent to the county jail, where they first see a magistrate. No matter the crime, that magistrate sets an initial bond to be released from jail before trial. Some, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings, have argued that the bonds have been too low for some crimes, and some criminal suspects have been able to get out quickly.

Step in, House Bill 813. The bill was filed this week by Rep. John Bradford of Mecklenburg County, and it takes aim at some of the worst criminals that have passed through the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.

There are plenty of examples that have been cited by Jennings and others, including a Fort Mill paramedic accused of sexually assaulting a teen in an ambulance and a man who shot and injured a CMPD officer in NoDa last year.

The push by lawmakers could fix that.

Under the proposal in House Bill 813, if someone is arrested for certain crimes, a magistrate will not be allowed to set their bond. Instead, a judge will have to. See the full list of those crimes at the bottom of this article.

“It’s great news for us,” said Lt. Bryan Crum with CMPD’s Violent Crimes Unit.

Crum told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz that low bonds leading to repeat offenders have taken a toll on officers.

“It’s tremendously frustrating when you have someone out of custody before we can even call the family members, sometimes,” Crum said.

But he believes the proposed law could help.

“You know that somebody is taking a look -- if somebody does an armed robbery, if someone shoots somebody, if somebody sexually assaults somebody, that a judge is going to take the time to review that case and to make sure that if this person is a danger, that they stay in jail,” Crum told Sáenz.

When Channel 9 spoke with Chief District Court Judge Elizabeth Trosch, she agreed and said changes were due. She also pointed to lawmakers as the ones responsible for change.

“I think we have an opportunity to increase the tools available to judicial officials in North Carolina to deal with people who really, frankly, scare us,” Judge Trosch told Sáenz in March.

The proposal has support from both Democrats and Republicans. As of Friday, the bill is awaiting movement in committee.

We’ve reached out to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office and Judge Trosch’s Office for their thoughts on the bill. We received this statement from Mecklenburg County District Attorney Merriweather:

“I have been proud to stand with other justice and law enforcement leaders in looking for ways to bring more accountability and transparency to pretrial custody decision-making. I am gratified that Rep. Bradford and others have filed critical legislation in HB813, which gives us a great opportunity to bring more integrity to pretrial practices, to better ensure the peace of our neighborhoods, and to ease the safety concerns of victims and witnesses as they await justice in our courts of law. I will actively advocate for this legislation, and I look forward to its enactment.”

If passed, a judge would decide the conditions for bail, if eligible, for the following charges:

  • First or second-degree murder.
  • Attempted murder.
  • First or second-degree kidnapping.
  • First or second-degree rape.
  • First or second-degree sexual offense.
  • First-degree statutory rape.
  • Statutory rape of or sexual offense against a child by an adult.
  • Statutory rape of or sexual offense against a person who is 15 years of age or younger.
  • Human trafficking.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
  • Discharging a firearm or barreled weapon into occupied property or any other conveyance while the property or conveyance is occupied.
  • First-degree burglary.
  • First-degree arson.
  • Robbery with a dangerous weapon

(WATCH: Mecklenburg County judge says fixing bail bonds is up to legislature)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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