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How much discretion do magistrates have to set bond for North Carolina defendants?

This week, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings questioned the amount a magistrate set for bond for the suspected shooter of a CMPD officer.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a rarely-seen move, a Mecklenburg County judge raised the bond for a man accused of shooting a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer.

A magistrate's decision to set the bond for Toddrick McFadden at $170,000 was criticized by Chief Johnny Jennings. McFadden now has a $270,000 bond after a judge decided to raise the bond for one count of attempted murder from $50,000 to $150,000.

RELATED: CMPD officer shot in the leg in NoDa

Questions about the duties of magistrates and the power they hold in the courtroom have been raised since. 


Can North Carolina magistrates go outside suggested limits when setting a defendant's bond?



This is true.

Yes, North Carolina magistrates can go outside suggested limits when setting a defendant's bond.


Magistrates set bonds based on two main factors, according to McCartan:

  1. How likely is a defendant to show up for future court dates?
  2. Is the defendant a danger to the public?

North Carolina law noted magistrates get the first chance to set a defendant's bond. It usually happens within 24 to 48 hours of an arrest.

Each district court in the state has different guidelines, if at all, for how much a bond should be depending on the charge.

Offenses like shooting at a police officer might garner a higher bond than other charges. 

But magistrates can make their own decisions, McCartan said. 

"These are a decent place to start, considering the nature of the offense, considering the prior record level, things like that," McCartan said. "A magistrate has broad discretion."

There are checks and balances, McCartan noted.

"It is generally understood that within between 24 and 48 hours, they have to get in front of another judicial official, an actual elected official, a district court judge, generally, to have that bond readdressed," McCartan said.

McCartan said police officers who arrest the defendant might meet with a magistrate before the magistrate sets the bond. The law enforcement official might argue for a greater or lesser bond.

Magistrates are not required to outline their reasons in writing or orally for setting a bond, nor are these meetings open to the public. 

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