Administration of Justice Bulletin #2023/02

Pretrial Release in Criminal Domestic Violence Cases

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

A person arrested for a noncapital criminal offense usually has a right to pretrial release upon the setting of reasonable conditions. Pretrial release is generally ordered by a magistrate at a defendant’s initial appearance. While the North Carolina General Statutes provide general rules for considering the pretrial release of a defendant for most offenses, there are some requirements and limitations for specific offenses.

     One such set of offenses involves domestic violence charges. As a special approach to setting conditions of pretrial release, the “48-hour rule,” as it is known in domestic violence cases, shifts the responsibility to judges. The rule is set out in G.S. 15A-534.1, which (1) provides that a judge—rather than a magistrate—must set a defendant’s pretrial release conditions during the first forty-eight hours after arrest for certain offenses and (2) lists the offenses subject to the 48-hour rule. Some offenses are subject to the rule based on the offense alone. A greater number of offenses are subject to the rule only if the defendant is charged with an offense listed in the statute and the defendant and victim are or have been in a relationship described in the statute.

     Through a series of questions and answers, this bulletin examines the special rules of pretrial release for domestic violence cases. The first few sections discuss pretrial release generally and in domestic violence cases. The sections that follow explore the mechanics of the 48-hour rule, the impact of violations of these special pretrial release rules, and questions on limitations of authority.

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Public Officials - Courts and Judicial Administration Roles
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