How do Bond Hearings Work in State Court?

After an arrest, there is a bond hearing. Here, the judge will provide rules to govern pre-trial release and set a bond amount. If you qualify for a bond, this means that instead of sitting in jail for the duration of your criminal case, you can be released with the expectation that you will show up for all required court hearings. Here is a quick overview of the bond process.

What is bond?

Commonly known as bond, or bail, qualified defendants may be eligible for pre-trial release. In the defendant’s initial court appearance, bond is set by the judge. Certain conditions are laid out, which if satisfied, allows the defendant to go about life while waiting for the criminal case to be resolved as opposed to sitting in jail for the duration of the process. Usually, bond includes payment as collateral for the defendant’s return to all court dates, but it can include other conditions such as staying away from victims or witnesses. Failure to satisfy bond conditions will put the defendant back in jail either until a new bond is set or until the case is resolved. 

Most bond hearings happen in District Court. Though serious felony cases are often heard in Superior Court, most felony cases begin in District Court so a bond determination will be made by a District Court judge. The procedure for posting bond varies by county. Reductions or modifications to bond can be requested by your attorney through a court hearing, or you can request the change yourself if you are without counsel. Bond is refundable once your case is resolved.

How much is my bond?

Though everyone arrested and charged with a crime is entitled to a bond hearing, that does not mean that every person is entitled to a specific bond amount. Bond is not determined by the alleged crime, but rather an individual bond assessment is made for every defendant. The judge considers factors such as whether the defendant is a flight risk or if the defendant is a danger to themselves or society. 

There are two kinds of bonds: unsecured and secured. An unsecured bond is simply a written agreement where the defendant promises to return to court as instructed or the defendant will be responsible for paying an agreed amount. Secured bonds are most common. A secured bond requires money upfront, typically only a percentage of the actual bond amount is required for release. Secured bonds may also include electronic monitoring for the defendant. 

What if I miss a court date?

If you fail to appear in court, your bond is forfeited. The repercussions of this depend on the conditions of your bond and the way it was posted. You may be taken back into custody for the duration of your case, as well as being on the hook for tendering the full bond amount to the State. If you relied on a surety to post bond, the surety is jointly liable for the bond. For more information about bond, visit the NC Courts website.