State v. Lemus, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Aug. 18, 2020)

The trial court had no statutory authority to enter a bail bond forfeiture where the defendant was not “released” from custody within the meaning of Article 26 of G.S. Chapter 15A because he was subject to an ICE detainer, was picked up by federal agents, and was deported to Mexico.  In 2018, the defendant was charged with a felony and a $100,000 secured bond was set as a condition of his pretrial release.  The defendant and his surety posted the bond, but the defendant was not released.  Instead, he was held for about 24 hours until ICE agents took him into custody directly from deputies from the Granville County Sheriff’s Office and eventually deported him.  Because he had been deported, the defendant failed to appear at trial and, consequently, the trial court entered a bond forfeiture order.  The surety filed a petition for remission of forfeiture under the “extraordinary circumstances” provision of G.S. 15A-544.8(b)(2).  The trial court denied the petition and the court of appeals reversed.  Saying that the case was one of first impression, the court conducted plain-language statutory interpretation and summarized that analysis as follows:

The bond forfeiture statutes apply only to “a defendant who was released” under those statutes. Lemus was never released. Therefore, the trial court had no authority to conduct a forfeiture proceeding and should have granted the petition to set aside the forfeiture for that reason.

 The court went on to reject various procedural and policy arguments advanced by the school board as to why the forfeiture was properly ordered.