Pretrial Integrity Act to change bond process in NC

The new law will require a judge to make that decision.
The case against John Alexander in Gaston County showed the differences in the bond process from county to county.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 2:41 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - The Pretrial Integrity Act takes effect on Oct. 1 in North Carolina.

The new law will change how people accused of certain violent crimes are released on bond. Currently, a magistrate sets the bond amount and if a person can be released from jail.

The new law will require a judge to make that decision.

Recently, WBTV reported on a Gaston County judge revoking a sex assault suspect’s bond set by a Mecklenburg County magistrate and increasing it to $500,000.

Related: Bond revoked for man accused of trespassing, assault at Belmont Abbey College

The case against John Alexander in Gaston County showed the differences in the bond process from county to county. Alexander surrendered in Mecklenburg County where a $50,000 bond was set by a magistrate in a county different from where the accused crime happened.

“The state thinks that’s insufficient to guarantee the safety of this community in Gaston County,” Travis Page, Gaston County District Attorney, said.

In court earlier this month, Page disagreed with the bond set by Mecklenburg County for Alexander, who’s accused of trespassing and sexually assaulting a Belmont Abbey College student.

WBTV asked Bill Powers, an attorney at Powers Law Firm not affiliated with the case, if things would have been different if the Pretrial Integrity Act was in place.

“The biggest part of the process that may have been different was the process itself, how a bond or conditional release was set,” Powers said. “Under the new law, it’ll be done by a judge as opposed to a magistrate.”

Powers said the new law will allow more information to be available when deciding a bond and release of a suspect. It only applies to certain violent offenses in North Carolina.

Offenses under the new law include:

  • First-degree and second-degree murder
  • Attempted first-degree murder
  • Rape (first- and second-degree) charges
  • Sex offenses (first- and second-degree)
  • Human trafficking
  • First-degree arson
  • First-degree burglary
  • Robbery with a dangerous weapon

Alexander is accused of two crimes in the category.

“A judge is called to evaluate the different competing interest, both to the community and to the individual rights and liberties for the person accused of a crime. So, are they a danger to the community? Will they commit more crimes? Will they show up to court? Or, is this a person who is truly presumed innocent until found guilty?” Powers said.

The attorney believes most will welcome the new pretrial integrity law without objection but said there are some drawbacks.

“People who wanted this law are admitting it’s going to take a lot of resources. It’s going to keep people in jail longer. It’s going to require the attention of judges, court time, clerks, DAs, defense lawyers,” Powers said.

The attorney added the legal system is already overburdened and it may be worth it given the type of charges that fall under the new law.

“There are going to be effects that we don’t really recognize right now, but I’m going to watch it carefully just like every other defense to see whether it’s being applied fairly,” Powers said.

People accused of crimes under this new law can be held for up to 48 hours to see a judge. After that period it reverts to the old system.

Powers said while this law is new on certain serious offenses, a similar model already exists for domestic violence cases.