Being charged with a criminal offense can be very stressful and frightening experience. For most people charged with a crime, the incident ends with them confined in a county jail hoping to be released quickly. When in jail, the magistrate is required by North Carolina statute to advise all recent arrestees of the charges against them and the conditions under which they may obtain their release. The magistrate has wide discretion in determining a person’s pretrial release conditions. Some factors the magistrate considers in make his/her determination include:

  • the person’s charges, whether he will pose a danger to other people or property if released
  • whether he is from out of state or lives close by
  • whether the person is a flight risk (likelihood the person skips his next court date)
  • the person’s criminal history

The Magistrate is primarily concerned with the person showing up on his court dates and the potential threat he poses to others in society. Less serious misdemeanors will usually have smaller bond amounts or no bond requirement. For more serious charges, such as felonies, bond amount will usually be higher.

After assessing all of these factors, the magistrate will then set release conditions for the defendant, which will fall into one of the following categories. First, the magistrate could release the suspect only on a written promise to appear. This is the best-case scenario. In these cases, the magistrate most likely found that the suspect is a minimal flight risk and is charged with low-level misdemeanor. A suspect could also be released into the custody of another person. If for instance the recent arrestee is intoxicated and found not competent to take care of himself, he can be released into the custody of a friend or family member. If after assessing the circumstances of the recent arrestee the magistrate believes the person may be a flight risk, the magistrate can set a cash bond. The cash bond can take two forms, either secured or unsecured.

  • An unsecured cash bond means that the defendant does not need to pay any money to be released so long as he is present at all of his court dates. If he fails to appear, the unsecured bond will become secured and he will be required to pay the specified amount to be released.
  • A secured bond requires the person to pay money prior to being released. The person can either pay the entire bond amount himself or can enlist the services of a bail bondsman to post the bond. If a bail bondsman is needed, the defendant will typically pay the bondsman a fee that is a percentage of the bond, usually between 15% to 20%, and the bondsman will post the remainder of the bond amount. In this case, the bail bondsman bears the risk of a person not showing up to court. Failing to appear requires the bondsman to forfeit the bond. Once the case has been disposed of, the bondsman will get the bond money back. If the arrestee posted bail money himself, the entire bail amount will be returned to him once the case is over.

If a person cannot afford bond nor obtain a bondsman, he will be confined to jail until his case is resolved. For people who cannot afford to be bailed out, not all hope is lost. The person will have a bond hearing, which in some circumstance can result in lowering bond or even getting the person released from custody. The bond hearing process will be the subject of my next article.

To read more on this topic, click the links below to visit some of our related blog posts:

How do I post bail?

How long can I be held without charges?


DWI/Criminal Attorney Blake Marcus

DWI/Criminal Attorney Blake Marcus








Minick Law’s criminal defense Attorney Blake Marcus graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with honors. During law school, Blake completed an internship with the honorable Michelle M. Rick in the 29th Circuit Court of Michigan. His primary practice area is DWI defense. He has completed the NHTSA DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Course.

For more information, or to speak with a lawyer about your criminal case, visit us online or call (828) 333-5024

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