State v. Doss, 279 N.C. 413, 183 S.E.2d 671 (Nov. 3, 2020)

The defendant was arrested for impaired driving and posted bond on same day through the bail agent. The defendant subsequently failed to appear, and an order was issued for her arrest. The court subsequently mailed a bond forfeiture notice to the bail agent. The bail agent filed a motion to set aside the forfeiture using form AOC-CR-213, checking box two which provides that “[a]ll charges for which the defendant was bonded to appear have been finally disposed by the court other than by the State taking a dismissal with leave as evidenced by the attached copy of the official court record” and box four, which provides that “[t]he defendant has been served with an order for arrest for the failure to appear on the criminal charge in the case in question as evidenced by a copy of an official court record, including an electronic record.” Slip. op. at 2-3. An ACIS printout showing that the defendant had been assigned a new court date was attached to the motion.

The local board of education opposed the motion and claimed the right to seek sanctions for reimbursement of all attorney fees and expenses incurred in objecting to this motion if the bail agent provided additional documentation after the date of the objection. Before to the hearing on the board’s objection to the motion to set aside, the bail agent provided the board’s counsel with additional documentation that demonstrated the order for arrest had been served. At the hearing, the board’s counsel conceded that the additional documentation was sufficient to set aside forfeiture, and the trial court granted the bail agent’s motion to set aside. The trial court also ordered sanctions against bail agent in the amount of $500 for failure to attach sufficient documentation to the motion to set aside. Further, the trial court prohibited the bail agent from becoming “surety on any bail bond in Jones County until” it satisfied the judgment.

The court of appeals determined that a trial court may only impose sanctions under G.S. 15A-544.5(d)(8) when the motion to set aside is denied. A trial court cannot order both that the forfeiture be set aside and that sanctions be imposed. Thus, it held that the court abused its discretion when it granted the motion to set aside and imposed sanctions against the bail agent.

The court also held that the board failed to make a proper motion for sanctions as the record did not indicate that the board filed or served the bail agent with a motion for sanctions and notice of the hearing 10 days prior to the hearing.

Further, the court of appeals determined that the trial court exceed its authority by prohibiting the bail agent from becoming surety on any future bonds in Jones County until the judgment was satisfied. Lastly, the appellate court reasoned that the trial court erred in determining that the motion “contained insufficient documentation” as the ACIS printout that was attached to the motion is an official court document. For all of these reasons, the court of appeals determined that the trial court abused its discretion when it sanctioned the bail agent.