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State v. Chestnut

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

October 3, 2017

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA,
v.
MICHAEL ANTOINE CHESTNUT, Defendant, and MELISSA HINES, Bail Agent, and AGENT ASSOCIATES INSURANCE, L.L.C., Surety.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 7 August 2017.

         Appeal by Wilson County Board of Education from order entered 3 October 2016 by Judge John J. Covolo in District Court, Wilson County No. 15 CR 051891.

          Schwartz & Shaw, P.L.L.C., by Kristopher L. Caudle and Rebecca M. Williams, for Wilson County Board of Education, Plaintiff-Appellant.

          No brief for Michael Antoine Chestnut, Defendant-Appellee.

          No brief for Melissa Hines, Bail Agent.

          No brief for Agent Associates Insurance, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellee Surety.

          McGEE, Chief Judge.

         The Wilson County Board of Education ("the Board of Education")[1] appeals from the trial court's order granting a motion to set aside a bond forfeiture filed by Agent Associates Insurance, L.L.C. ("Surety"). For the reasons discussed below, we vacate the trial court's order.

         I. Background

         Michael Antoine Chestnut ("Defendant") failed to appear in Wilson County District Court on an underlying criminal charge on 8 April 2016. On that same day, the trial court issued a bond forfeiture notice for the forfeiture of an appearance bond in the amount of $1, 500.00 posted by Melissa Hines ("Bail Agent") on Surety's behalf. The notice set a final judgment date of 8 September 2016, and notice of the bond forfeiture was given to Bail Agent and Surety on 11 April 2016.[2]

         Bail Agent filed a motion to set aside the forfeiture ("the motion to set aside") on 6 September 2016. A pre-printed form, Form AOC-CR-213, is used for motions to set aside a bond forfeiture. This form lists seven exclusive reasons, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-544.5, for which a bond forfeiture may be set aside, along with corresponding boxes for a movant to mark the specific reason(s) alleged for setting aside the forfeiture. Bail Agent did not check any of these boxes in this case. In addition to the motion to set aside, however, Bail Agent submitted a letter stating that Bail Agent "ha[d] been putting forth efforts to locate [Defendant] and ha[d] been unsuccessful in doing so[, ]" despite "spen[ding] $150.00 checking leads as to where and how [Bail Agent could] locate [Defendant]." The Board of Education filed a Form AOC-CR-213 objecting to the motion to set aside on 12 September 2016.

         The trial court held a hearing on Surety's motion to set aside on 3 October 2016. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court allowed the motion, based on its finding that Surety "ha[d] established one or more of the reasons specified in [ N.C. G.S.] 15A-544.5 for setting aside [the] forfeiture." The Board of Education appeals.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         In an appeal from an order setting aside a bond forfeiture, "the standard of review for this Court is whether there was competent evidence to support the trial court's findings of fact and whether its conclusions of law were proper in light of such facts." State v. Dunn, 200 N.C.App. 606');">200 N.C.App. 606, 608, 685 S.E.2d 526, 528 (2009) (citation omitted); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-544.5(h) (2015) (providing in part that "[a]n order on a motion to set aside a forfeiture is a final order or judgment of the trial court for purposes of appeal. Appeal is the same as provided for appeals in civil actions."). Questions of law, including matters of statutory construction, are reviewed de novo. See In re Hall, 238 N.C.App. 322, 324, 768 S.E.2d 39, 41 (2014) (citation omitted) ("Resolution of issues involving statutory construction is ultimately a question of law for the courts. Where an appeal presents a question of statutory interpretation, full review is appropriate, and we review a trial court's conclusions of law de novo[.]").

         B. Analysis

         1. ...


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