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Dysart Willis

First Appearances and Bond Hearings

If you or a family member has been arrested and charged with a crime, it is important to get a lawyer involved early in the process.  Upon arrest, a defendant has a constitutional right to know what crime(s) he or she faces, which usually takes place at what's referred to as a "first appearance."

In North Carolina, first appearances are generally heard by a District Court judge. The judge will advise the defendant of the charges he or she faces as well as the maximum punishment allowed by statute. Additionally, the judge will notify the accused of the right to counsel at which point they will have an option of telling the court whether they have hired or plan to hire a private attorney or whether they prefer to apply to have a public defender appointed. 

A first appearance may also be the first opportunity to be heard on bond. Bond is the device used by the court system to ensure that the defendant appears in court.  The amount of the bond is determined based on a number of factors including the seriousness of the charge, prior criminal record, employment status, family situation, and living circumstances. The judge will also decide whether to issue an unsecured bond or secured bond. An unsecured bond or written promise to appear does not require that the defendant put up money in satisfaction of the bond amount. A secured bond requires that the defendant, or someone on their behalf, pay the bond amount in order to secure release from custody prior to trial. Because bonds are often set at amounts far greater than people can afford to pay, securing the services of a reputable bondsman is wise when facing a secured bond.

A judge will weigh the factors described above in determining whether the defendant is a flight risk or poses a danger to others. This decision determines the bond amount and whether it is secured or unsecured. With so much at stake before the facts of the case are even heard, it is advisable to retain an attorney who can represent your interests at a bond hearing. An experienced attorney will be able to provide counsel regarding when to request a bond hearing and what arguments to make to ensure the bond if fair and reasonable. 

If you're looking for representation in a criminal case, please call Dysart Law at 919-747-8380 or email at [email protected] for a free consultation. Our attorneys have represented clients charged with misdemeanor, felony, and federal crimes and stand ready to assist with whatever you're facing.