State v. Robinson, COA23-564, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Jun. 4, 2024)

In this Guilford County case, the State appealed an order granting dismissal of the assault, interfering with emergency communications, and communicating threats charges against defendant after the district court imposed a $250 secured bond when defendant announced his intention to appeal to superior court. The Court of Appeals reversed the superior court order dismissing the charges, remanding for further findings to support the imposition of a secured cash bond. 

In June of 2019, defendant was charged with felony assault by strangulation, interfering with emergency communications, and communicating threats, and received a $2,500 unsecured bond for pretrial release. The State reduced the assault by strangulation charge to simple assault, and a district court bench trial was held in August 2022. Defendant was found guilty on all charges, and given a 150-day suspended sentence. Defendant then gave notice of appeal, at which point the district court modified defendant’s pretrial release to require a $250 secured bond, leading to defendant being taken into custody for a few hours while his family posted the bond. In October 2022, defendant moved at the superior court to dismiss the charges, and the superior court granted the motion, finding the district court did not properly modify defendant’s bond pursuant to statute and the denial of his right to a reasonable bond impermissibly infringed on his Fourth Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights.

Taking up the State’s appeal, the Court of Appeals first looked at the district court’s jurisdiction to modify the pretrial release bond, as defendant argued that the district court was immediately divested of jurisdiction when he announced his appeal. Looking to the language of G.S. 15A-1431, the court concluded “[g]iven that the plain language contained in Section 1431 mandates action from a magistrate or district court following a defendant giving notice of appeal, we conclude that the district court is not immediately divested of jurisdiction following ‘the noting of an appeal.’” Slip Op. at 11. This meant that the district court retained jurisdiction to modify defendant’s pretrial release. The court then looked to G.S. 15A-534 for the requirements to impose a secured cash bond, finding that the district court did not properly record its reasons in writing, meaning the superior court’s order was correct in finding the district court erred. 

Having established that the district court erred by imposing a secured bond without written findings, the court moved to the question of whether defendant’s rights were flagrantly violated and whether his case suffered irreparable prejudice to support dismissal of the charges against him under G.S. 15A-954. The court concluded that defendant had not been irreparably prejudiced, looking to the superior court’s own findings, pointing to Finding No. 12 that “the court does not find, that the $250 cash bond and subsequent time in custody affected defendant’s ability to prepare his case in superior court, or otherwise to consult with counsel to be ready for trial.” Id. at 14 (cleaned up). Because the superior court’s own findings showed no prejudice and the findings were not challenged on appeal, the court determined it was error to grant defendant’s motion to dismiss.