New bail bonds law keeps repeat offenders off streets

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Lauren Thomson - email

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Keeping our community safer by keeping repeat offenders off the streets. That's the goal of a new law that went into effect this week.

It requires people on probation and parole to see a district court judge before getting bond on new felony offenses.

Local prosecutors say it sends a tough message to repeat offenders.

There are more than 3,500 people on parole and probation in New Hanover County.

If one of them commits another crime, they'll have to stay in jail until they can get a court hearing to set their bail.

One bail bondsman tells us this will hurt his bottom line.

Anthony Newkirk hasn't been a bail bondsman very long, but he knows business is the slowest it's been in years.

This week, business got worse.

"Weekends and holidays, tremendously. It will tremendously affect our business," says Newkirk.

That's because under a new North Carolina law that went into effect December 1st, people who commit a felony while on probation or parole will have to go before a district court judge to get bail.

Prior to December 1st, they could just see a magistrate at the jail.

New Hanover and Pender Counties district attorney Ben David says, "This law makes it much tougher on career criminals in the criminal justice system to get out if they've committed another offense while they're on probation."

That means someone who commits a crime Friday night will have to wait at least two full days in jail before their bond hearing.

Local prosecutors say this law will help keep criminals off the streets.

"The effect of this is there is going to be a lot more people that are about to be in our local jail that are violating probation by continuing to break the law and that's a good thing. Jails should be built for housing career criminals," says David.

District court judges will now have to determine whether an offender is "a danger to the community" before setting a bond.

If a judge decides they are likely to commit another crime because of their previous record, the parolee will have to stay in jail.

Bad news for people like Newkirk who make their living getting people out.

"On a regular citizen basis, yeah, it's great. On a business point of view, it's rough because it will impact our business and with the economy the way it is now, we don't need any more subtractions," says Newkirk.

Copyright 2009 WECT. All rights reserved.