Bail and Bonds During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the wake of the current coronavirus pandemic the judicial system has been operating on a limited scale, leaving many North Carolinians wondering what this means for bail and bond proceedings. The procedural requirements in both bond hearings and bail bond forfeiture proceedings, have changed in response to the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 13, 2020, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley released an order whereby the time allowed in a bail bond forfeiture proceeding was extended pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(1). Prior to the ordered extension, a final judgment of forfeiture would be enforced on the one hundred fiftieth day after notice was given of the entry, so long as no order setting aside the forfeiture was entered on or before that date, and no motion to set aside the forfeiture was pending on that date (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-544.6.). However, pursuant to the Judge Beasley’s Order, if the date in which a final judgment of forfeiture would be enforced falls on or after April 14 and before or on September 29, 2020, then any motion or objection to set aside that is due to be filed within that period shall be deemed timely if filed on September 30, 2020, by the end of business. This extension is beneficial for defendants who failed to appear in court as well as bail bondsmen who are required to pay the outstanding amount due to the defendant’s failure to appear.

Note that while the deadline has been extended for cases that fall within the specified timeframe, parties on a bail bond may make a written motion that the forfeiture be set aside prior to the September 30, 2020.

In addition, prior to the Order, under N.C.G.S. § 15A-544.5(d)(4), if neither the district attorney nor the attorney for the board of education filed an objection twenty days after being served a copy of the motion to set aside the forfeiture by the moving party, the clerk would enter an order setting aside the forfeiture. However, after the issuance of the Order, any objection to a motion to set aside that is due to be filed on or after April 14 and before or on September 29, shall be deemed to be timely filed if it is filed before the close of business on 30 September 2020. This extension allows the district attorney and the attorney for the board of education additional time to object to the defendant’s motion due to the current pandemic, so long as they fall within the specified timeframe.

In the case that either the district attorney or the county board of education filed a written objection to the defendant’s motion to set aside the forfeiture, then the required hearing on the motion and objection shall take place within the 30 days following the filing of the objection. However, under the order issued by Chief Justice Beasley on April 2, 2020, a bond hearing is exempt from the emergency directive requiring all superior court and district court proceedings, including those held before the clerks of superior court, to be scheduled or rescheduled no sooner then June 1, 2020. Bond hearings are necessary to preserve the right to due process, which is why they are exempt from the directive and must still be held. Judicial officials are thus tasked with determining what the best course of action in conducting the bond hearing proceeding is, either remotely or in-person.

Pursuant to Emergency Directive 3, contained in Chief Justice Beasley’s Order issued May 1, 2020, judicial officials throughout the state of North Carolina are authorized to conduct proceedings that include remote audio and video transmissions, notwithstanding any other provision of law. So long as these proceedings comply with the four requirements outlined in Directive 1, the bond hearing may proceed remotely. Note however, that this emergency directive does not prevent judicial officials from conducting the bond hearing in-person. It is at the discretion of the judicial official whether the proceeding be conducted remotely or in-person. While the consent of the parties is not required, under the most recent set of emergency directives, they are able to object, for good cause, to the proceeding be held remotely.

Contact an Attorney

Judicial orders are being released often, adjusting the manner in which criminal proceedings are permitted to be held, the process of filing court documents, and more. These are unusual and unprecedented times, make sure that you and those you love who are dealing with matters involving bail and bonds have adequate representation to serve your needs. If you are located in Charlotte, NC and need help with your bail and bonds issue, contact our experienced and qualified attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.340.2828 or online for a consultation.