For people newly charged with their first crime in North Carolina, there are many confusing aspects to the criminal justice system. One of these is the long list of terms used to describe different people and their roles in criminal cases. Below, we look at several key roles and the terms that describe them. Whether you find yourself charged with a crime in Chatham, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Wake, or Lee County, you will likely have these people involved in your case.
The “who’s who” of criminal cases include:
- The district attorney also called the prosecutor
- A public defender or criminal defense lawyer
- Bail bondsman
Who is the District Attorney in criminal cases?
The district attorney is also called the state’s attorney, prosecutor, or D.A. This person is the chief attorney for your county where you are charged with a crime. They represent the state and the best interests of the people who live there, in regard to criminal matters.
Most DAs supervise a staff of other lawyers for the state called assistant district attorneys (ADAs). They also supervise victim witness advocates, investigators, and other employees. Their primary job is to determine which cases go to district or state courts, prosecute those cases, and advise law enforcement. They also participate in grand jury hearings in their district or county. The prosecutor in your case has the authority to settle your case through a plea bargain.
Who is the public defender in a case?
A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the state to represent someone charged with a crime when that person cannot afford their own attorney. When police read you the 5th Amendment Miranda Rights, you hear the familiar lines, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” This state-paid lawyer is the person these rights speak of being appointed for you.
From the time police start talking to you as part of a North Carolina criminal case and until the courts release you, your defender works to uphold your legal rights. If you can afford an attorney, you can decide whether to use a state-appointed defender or pay a criminal defense lawyer.
Am I the defendant in my NC case?
If charged with a crime, you are the defendant in your criminal case.
If your case involves other people charged along with you, the courts call you codefendants.
You can also be in this role if sued in a civil case, although those types of cases do not result in punitive damages like a prison or a jail term. Instead, these parties must typically pay financial damages to the plaintiff or victim if they lose their case. For civil matters, you are also not arrested, read your rights, or put in jail.
Police typically take those charged with crimes into custody. This means you hear your Miranda Rights read to you and face being placed into handcuffs. Many people in this position ride to the police station in a police car. Others must turn themselves in after receiving notification of a court-issued arrest warrant. Either way, being placed under arrest generally means being held in jail for a period of time.
If you go into police custody, you need to post bail to get out and work on your case. Many people charged with crimes in the state either do not attempt to post bail or otherwise remain stuck in jail until their trial. The court sometimes refuses bail for serious cases, such as murder, domestic violence, or sexual assault.
Who are the bail bondsman and bounty hunter in a criminal case?
In a criminal matter, your bail bondsman acts as a surety for your appearance in court. This means they pledge a certain amount of money or property to bail you out of jail.
The bail process involves first going to a hearing to find out how much bail the court requires for your case. If the judge permits bail, the bail amount is set and you can contact a bondsman to pay it. Once the bondsman does so, you can return home to prepare for trial. But you must attend all of your hearings and meet all of the court requirements to maintain your freedom.
Other names for a bondsman include:
- Bail bonds person
- Bail bond agent
- Bond dealer
If you do not appear in court as required, you lose the money you paid to your bondsman. You also put them in the position of losing their money paid to the courts on your behalf. As a result, the bondsman or their agency can send a bounty hunter to locate you and return you to jail. But if you do everything the court requires, getting bonded out of jail makes more sense than remaining there while you await trial.
North Carolina Bail Bond Agency for Your Criminal Case
When you or someone you love face charges for a crime in Lee, Hartnett, Chatham, Wake, Franklin, or Johnston County in North Carolina, contact DJ’s Bail Bonds. We take calls 24 hours per day and seven days per week to meet your bail bond needs.