Gun-bond bill sought by mayor clears N.C. Senate

Apr. 03, 2013 @ 06:50 PM

A bill that would write some of Mayor Bill Bell’s ideas about the treatment of people accused of gun-related crimes into law has cleared the N.C. Senate.

The measure passed third reading in the Senate by a vote of 46-0 and now moves on to the N.C. House, said co-sponsor Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.

As work on the bill unfolded, “the hardest part was in committee,” he added, referring to a preliminary review last month in the Senate’s Judiciary II Committee.

The bill evolved out of the mayor’s call last year for a $300,000 minimum bond in gun-related cases. After judges and local legislators balked, Bell and City Attorney Patrick Baker came up with a different proposal that gained more support locally.

It would make it more difficult for someone charged with a felony or major misdemeanor to receive bond if they’ve been convicted of a similar crime in the previous five years.

The measure instructs magistrates and judges to assume in such cases that no “condition of release’ would suffice to assure that the accused will appear in court.

An accused person’s attorney would have to convince a judge that the person will show up for court and that he or she isn’t an “unreasonable risk” to public safety.

The same strictures apply to people arrested for a gun-related felony or major misdemeanor while they’re already on pre-trial release in a similar case.

Judiciary committee members reviewed the proposal last Thursday and tacked on an extra requirement for people charged with a second gun-crime while they were awaiting trial on a like charge.

A judge inclined to grant bond in such cases would have to “at least double” whatever bond the defendant posted to get out of jail the first time, seeing to it the defendant pays at least $1,000.

The judge would also have to require a secured bond, the sort that requires an up-front payment.

McKissick said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, sought the amendment and that he’d accepted it because it didn’t “hurt the purposes” of the measure.

Once it got to the floor, the bill encountered questions from Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, who wanted to know whether there was any precedent for it.

McKissick assured the Wilmington senator that the state already takes a similar approach to cases involving drug trafficking and gang-related crimes.

“It’s not the first time there’s been this type of carve-out to give a certain group of cases a different type of treatment in setting bonds,” McKissick said.

Senate vote tallies show that Daniel and Goolsby were both present for the final vote Wednesday and supported its passage.

McKissick said he’s expecting state Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, to shepherd the bill through the House.