The Importance of Bond: George Zimmerman’s Lesson

Bond is one of the most important stages in a criminal case as George Zimmerman is now learning. Zimmerman is the man accused of second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

In North Carolina, an arrestee has two opportunities to have bond set within the first 48 hours. The first opportunity occurs in front of a magistrate. The magistrate – who is a judicial official for purposes of constitutional law – sets the initial bond, usually consistent with the bond guidelines established by Wake County’s Superior Court Judge.

Where there’s flexibility, it is important to have a Raleigh criminal lawyer present during surrender so that bond can be set as low as possible. In some cases, bond can be set so low that the person can bond out immediately without having to be dressed out by the Wake County Detention Center staff.

If bond is set higher than one can afford, then the arrestee can stay in custody until his “first appearance” which is an appearance in front of a District Court Judge. A First Appearance requires that the defendant be informed of three things:

  1. The charges against him, including the maximum possible punishment.
  2. His next court date (also known as a Probable Cause hearing)
  3. And the question posed to the arrestee about what he’d like to do about a an attorney – hire an attorney, or request that the court appoint lawyer.

If someone has remained in custody, that person will almost always be granted a Court Appointed lawyer although, at a future time, that person can hire a lawyer to replace the public defender or court appointed lawyer.

As George Zimmerman has learned, bond is a serious matter because so long as the state can keep him confined pending trial, that places tremendous pressure upon him to plead guilty to a lesser charge before a trial is ever heard.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.