Wake County has a New System for Criminal Pretrial Release
The Wake County, North Carolina criminal court recently rolled out a new "evidence based" system for determining bail decisions. The court also amended the bail "schedule" which is used by magistrates to achieve some consistency in the bail amounts imposed. I am to believe that this new system will lead to a significant reduction in pre-trial detentions for people who are unable to pay bail. It also should reduce the number of convictions in Wake County Courts, as fewer people are compelled to plead guilty with "time served" just so they can get out of jail. The new Order was signed by the head judges of the Superior and District Courts and released on March 15, 2022.
There may be an opportunity to revisit bail in pending Wake County criminal cases
The decision to impose a bond on a criminal defendant, and the determination of the amount, can be one of the most consequential substantive decisions in a case. Given that the Wake County Courts are using new guidance regarding these important decisions, there may be room for a reconsideration of bond. Additionally, it is my understanding that a lot more people will qualify for "pretrial services", a program of self-reporting that varies in intensity based upon factors such as criminal history, history of failures to appear in court, the nature of the charge, ties to the community, etc. The decision will always still be based upon the statutory factors in North Carolina General Statute 15A-534, and the decision matrix being adopted is mostly just a more sophisticated (and hopefully accurate) method to determine whether and to what extent a criminally accused is either a danger to the community or a threat to flee prosecution. The Order, which is attached below, adopts use of a Public Safety Assessment, described as an "objective, validated tool for understanding an individual's likelihood of success when released on pretrial."
The Court has also announced increased attempts to secure public defenders at criminal first appearances. This would also be an important step in making sure that fewer people sit in jail while they await trial in their criminal cases. Hopefully the system will come up with funding for this important function, and North Carolina Courts will find the will to close the pay gap between public defenders and prosecutors too!
Call for a Free Consultation Regarding your Wake County Criminal Case
If you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated while awaiting trial, it is always helpful to discuss the situation with a lawyer. Sometimes it might be a good idea to get a second opinion on the odds of either getting the bond reduced or a release to pretrial services. Feel free to reach out to us using the form on the sidebar, and we will schedule a time to talk with a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the Wake County courts. For more serious cases, or federal criminal cases, we are also willing to travel outside Wake County.