HAYWOOD COUNTY, NC -- A new law about to take effect in North Carolina will make it harder for violent offenders to bond out of jail.
They'll have to meet a two-day holding period, and decisions for release will now go before a judge.
House Bill 813 passed the General Assembly last month. It's called the Pretrial Integrity Act.
"It puts us in a position now to where there are some restrictions on bail," says 118th District Representative Mark Pless.
"It addresses some issues," Rep. Pless says. "We've had complaints on a lot where folks are being released, they're re-committing crimes and they're getting released again."
Pless says for a host of serious charges like murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, and human trafficking, the new law means bonds will be set by judges, instead of magistrates.
Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke is in favor.
"I am fully in favor of any effort that puts offenders in jail that refuse to stop re-offending, and keeps them there," he says.
The law extends 48-hour holds as well. That would impact lesser, non-violent offenses too.
"If a judge doesn't see them within the 48 hours, then the magistrate has the authority to go back in and work out something," Rep. Pless says.
Some argue the changes will slow down the wheels of justice and clog up local jails. But Macon County Sheriff Brent Holbrooks disagrees.
"I don't see any issues with the change in law and don't foresee any issues with overcrowding in our detention facility," he says.
"I have spoken previously to law enforcement, and they assure me that they will always be able to find a place to put someone who needs to be in jail," says Pless.
"It's a very hot topic right now," says Ellen Pitt, a victim advocate and local Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative.
She says the pretrial changes are positive.
"District court judges are much more aware of how to set those conditions," Pitt says. "We have magistrates that stay very aware of things and then we have some that have not."
In recent years, Pitt pushed for mandatory continuing education training, specifically for magistrates.
But she also says the new law should consider driving while impaired a violent crime.
"Why do they separate this out? It's probably the most frequently committed crime in our country," she says.
The new law takes effect Oct. 1, 2023.
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