What is an Indictment? What is a True Bill in North Carolina? Can I be held in jail waiting for charges ?
The short answer is no. If there aren’t charges pending, you can’t be held – Bill Powers
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Modified Transcript of “Can I be held in jail waiting for charges?” for the Hearing Impaired
Hi, I’m Bill Powers, an attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. Powers Law Firm PA have offices now in Charlotte, NC.
I’ve got a question here.
These are things that people post online. They’re public, I guess, message boards if you will. This isn’t something a client asked us. This is just something they put out on the cloud. “Can someone whose charges were dismissed in District Court be held in jail pending a possible indictment in Superior Court?”
This person was arrested on a warrant for possession, looks like a felony, was not found in possession, but someone wrote a statement giving ownership of that item. For this question we’ll just say it was a gun. The case was dismissed in District Court, but may be brought up to Superior Court. Can that person be held in jail pending a possible indictment?
Let me do some definitions here. Well, first of all let’s go the basic, misdemeanor versus felony. You heard me talk about that. There are some offenses that while they are felonies … Felonies are more serious offenses … In the common law it used to be defined as anything punishable more than a year in prison.
Some of the older things were punishable by death. By the way, that’s not the standard in North Carolina, offenses punishable by death are felonies, but I bring it up because there’s a history or development of this. They’re more serious charges.
We see felony cases, as you might imagine, for murder, manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, robbery, things of that nature, even possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, or possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. There’s a bunch of them.
They’re the more serious charges. Misdemeanors traditionally are things that are not as serious, under the common law anything not punishable by more than a year, traditionally.
That’s not true either across the board. There are some offenses that … Well, in North Carolina we have different categories and classes of offenses from A1 down to … from there.
DWI cases, for example, are technically considered misdemeanors, but if you have a bunch of them you’re qualifying under what’s called Laura’s Law or aggravated level one DWI. It has a maximum of 36 months. Well, last time I checked 36 months is three years, not one, so this idea of the common law is inapplicable, but it’s a starting point.
The second part of this inquiry was it looks like the person may have been charged or accused of a felony. They’re under arrest, maybe brought to a probable cause hearing date.
In Charlotte we have a courtroom called courtroom 1150. It’s technically District Court, but it handles both misdemeanors and felonies. One way or another, and there are all kinds of exceptions to the rule, but normally with a felony where the state’s proceeding as a felony, at least in Charlotte, you would see the case go from 1150 up to the fifth flour, our Superior Court level of the courthouse. That can be done by a true bill of indictment where a grand jury gets together in a secret proceeding, decides that there’s at least evidence to proceed forward. It can be done voluntarily. You waive probable cause.
I think the inquiry here is it sounded like the case was dismissed to the grand jury. The person was still sitting in court or in jail, and they’re wondering can they hold him in jail, or her in jail, pending an indictment.
The answer’s no, but it’s not always as clean or as clear as that because there could be other charges holding you. If you come to a probable cause hearing date and the state cannot proceed forward, they don’t have their witnesses there, or if you will not voluntarily waive your right to a probable cause hearing, they have but one choice, I guess offer a plea to a misdemeanor or something else or dismiss the case to the grand jury. If the case is dismissed to the grand jury, there’s no charge. There’s nothing to hold you. To proceed otherwise, to keep you in jail otherwise, well, that would violate the fourth amendment. You cannot be held without just cause. You cannot be held without any reason or charges being pressed against you.
It’s complicated. I encourage people, especially if it’s a family member and you have a loved one in jail, give us a call.
We offer a free consultation. It’s on our dime, not yours. It’s confidential. We ask a lot of questions to answer questions, and then we’ll hopefully be able to point you in the right direction, whether your loved one can post bond or find some other alternative means to securing his or her release.
Maybe a bond hearing’s appropriate. Give us a ring. Good question: Can I be held in jail waiting for charges:
The short answer is no. If there aren’t charges pending, you can’t be held.
Thanks for your inquiry though.