Published: Jan 29, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 29, 2013 02:36 PM
Over six months in 2012, Durham magistrates processed 221 individuals for gun-law violations. Of those, one in three, 74, would have come under the provisions of Mayor Bill Bell’s proposal for toughened rules on bail bonds.
Had Bell’s proposal been law, eight of the 74 released on bond right away would have spent at least one night in jail.
Chief Magistrate Donald Paschall had the figures compiled last week at Bell’s request.
“That’s about 1.2 cases a day (where) we’ve got someone going into the magistrate’s office for some type of gun violation,” Bell said, presenting the numbers to the City Council. “That stood out.”
Under Bell’s proposal, only judges could approve bonds for suspects arrested for felony or Class A1 misdemeanor firearm offenses if the suspect is already on pretrial release for a previous firearm offense or has a previous felony or Class A1 misdemeanor conviction, or release after such conviction, within five years.
State legislators have suggested restricting the terms to felony and serious misdemeanors. Bell said he received the data from Paschall after the legislative meeting.
Of the 74 suspects on Paschall’s breakdown who fit the proposal’s conditions:
• 71 were charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
• One was charged with possession and other charges including felony probation violation.
• Two were charged with possessing a weapon of mass destruction.
• 25 had bonds set between $100,000 and $6 million.
• 29 had bonds set between $25,000 and $45,000.
• 55 spent one night in jail; three spent two nights; eight spent three nights.
• Eight spent no time in jail, having posted a bond set by a magistrate.
Had Bell’s proposal been law, those eight would have had to wait in jail until appearing before a judge the next business day, and then persuade the judge that his or her release on bail would pose no unreasonable threat to the public.
The legislators had said Bell’s proposal might meet resistance in the General Assembly due to the public expense of keeping more suspects in jail. Bell said Paschall’s report indicates a “minimal impact in terms of additional people would have stayed in jail.”
City Councilman Steve Schewel remarked on the report that a suspect under a $6 million bond was bailed out after no more than three nights in jail.
“Something about that just strikes me as -- surprising,” Schewel said.
“Disturbing, perhaps?” said Councilwoman Diane Catotti.