State v. Ortiz, ___ N.C. App. ___, 832 S.E.2d 474 (Aug. 6, 2019)

In this bond forfeiture case, the trial court erred by granting the sureties relief from a bond forfeiture before the date of the forfeited bond’s final judgment.  The court first determined that the Board of Education’s appeal of the trial court’s grant of relief was timely as it was filed two days after the trial court’s entry of final judgment on the sureties’ motion to strike the forfeited bond, which, the court concluded, occurred upon the entry of the trial court’s written order granting relief rather than upon an earlier oral ruling.  Turning to the merits, the court held that because G.S. 15A-544.5 is the exclusive avenue of relief from a bond forfeiture where the forfeiture has not yet become a final judgment, the trial court erred by granting relief under G.S. 15A-301, a statute that grants judicial officials the authority to recall criminal process in certain circumstances.  By its terms, G.S. 15A-544.5 clearly and unambiguously instructs that it is the exclusive avenue of relief from a bond forfeiture that has not yet become a final judgment.  The trial court’s order specifically stated that none of the seven reasons for setting aside a forfeiture enumerated in G.S. 15A-544.5 existed in this case, and it was error to rely on G.S. 15A-301 as an alternative source of authority.