The Virginia Court of Appeals has granted the petition of Livesay & Myers, P.C. criminal lawyer Ghislaine Storr Burks for review of two important legal issues, in the case of a North Carolina bail bondsman convicted of Attempted Abduction and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony in the Circuit Court of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
The defendant in the case has been a lawfully licensed professional bondsman from North Carolina for the past thirty-five (35) years. He came to Virginia for the purposes of apprehending a fugitive bailee after receiving information that the fugitive would be attending a funeral in Mecklenburg County. Before attending the funeral, the bondsman followed what he thought to be a thorough and lawful process by contacting the local authorities. Before ever going to the funeral he met with a Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s deputy and requested their assistance after showing the deputy paperwork that related to the fugitive and confirming the fugitive’s identity. The deputy told the bondsman that Virginia would not extradite, but did not tell the bondsman that he could not apprehend the fugitive, and further told the bondsman that it was basically “okay” if he did apprehend him.
Following his discussion with the deputy, the bondsman attended the funeral. Later, the bondsman approached a man he believed to be his fugitive bailee. Unfortunately, the man he approached was later determined to be a police officer in Alexandria, Virginia, not the fugitive.
Testimony at trial differed as to what happened during the exchange, but the following facts are not disputed: 1) the defendant is a bail bondsman licensed in North Carolina, 2) the defendant identified himself as a bail bondsman from North Carolina to the man he approached and prior to that to local authorities, 3) the bondsman contacted the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department and informed a deputy of his intentions regarding the fugitive, 4) the bondsman requested the assistance of local authorities before ever attempting to apprehend the fugitive, and 5) the bondsman believed that the fugitive was wanted by North Carolina for failing to appear.
Upon conviction in Circuit Court, Ms. Storr Burks noted an appeal on behalf of the bail bondsman, raising the following issues: a) whether an out of state licensed bail bondsman has legal authority to recover a fugitive bailee in Virginia or to temporarily deprive a person of his freedom whom he reasonably believes to be a fugitive and b) whether, even if the bondsman did not have the legal authority to recover a fugitive from Virginia, the bondsman still lacked the requisite and specific intent required for Attempted Abduction when he was a lawfully licensed bondsman, believed the person he detained to be a fugitive, and released the person he detained immediately upon learning that he was not.
Ms. Storr Burks argued on behalf of the bondsman that to hold him criminally liable would violate the bondsman’s due process rights, since Virginia law does not specifically criminalize his behavior. Virginia law, at this time, is unclear on the aforementioned issues. Moreover, there is a conflict between language from the United States Supreme Court, granting wide authority to bail bondsmen even when acting across states lines, and the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, which was codified in Virginia and imposes greater restrictions on bail bondsmen.
A similar issue was dealt with in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a bail bondsman receiving some protection from criminal liability, as the state at issue in that case had not, by its codification of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, overridden the existing United States Supreme Court law.
The Virginia Court of Appeals has granted the petition for appeal on both issues. Ms. Storr Burks will now submit a full brief to the Court on both issues, and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office will respond.
We will provide further updates on this blog as this precedent-setting case moves forward.
The criminal defense lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. represent clients throughout Northern and Central Virginia. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, contact us to schedule your free consultation with a Virginia criminal defense attorney today.