in the Court of Appeals 7 August 2017.
by Wilson County Board of Education from order entered 3
October 2016 by Judge William C. Farris in District Court,
Wilson County No. 15 CR 701951, following a hearing the same
date before Judge John J. Covolo.
Schwartz & Shaw, P.L.L.C., by Kristopher L. Caudle and
Rebecca M. Williams, for Wilson County Board of Education,
brief for Antonio Jermaine Knight, Jr., Defendant.
brief for Ontarris T. Armstrong, Bail Agent.
& Associates, P.L.L.C., by Robert J. Harris, for
Financial Casualty & Surety, Defendant-Appellee Surety.
Wilson County Board of Education ("the Board of
Education") appeals from the trial court's order
reducing a bond forfeiture amount after denying a
surety's motion to set aside the bond forfeiture. Because
we conclude the trial court lacked statutory authority to
reduce the bond forfeiture amount, we vacate the trial
court's order and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Jermaine Knight ("Defendant") failed to appear in
Wilson County District Court in an underlying criminal matter
on 11 March 2016. The Wilson County Clerk of Court issued a
bond forfeiture notice in the amount of $2, 000.00 to
Defendant, Financial Casualty & Insurance
("Surety"), and Surety's bail agent, Ontarris
T. Armstrong ("Bail Agent"), on 14 March 2016.
Notice was mailed to all parties on 17 March 2016.
Fuller, another bail agent of Surety, filed a motion to set
aside the bond forfeiture ("the motion to set
aside") on 15 August 2016. Form AOC-CR-213, the
preprinted form used for motions to set aside a forfeiture,
lists the seven reasons, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §
15A-544.5, for which a bond forfeiture may be set aside, with
corresponding boxes for a movant to mark the alleged basis
for setting aside the forfeiture. In the present case, the
motion to set aside filed by Surety's bail agent did not
indicate Surety's reason for setting aside the
forfeiture. A document attached to the motion, entitled
"General Court of Justice (Surety Notice of
Defendant's Incarceration), " indicated that
Defendant was incarcerated on 2 August 2016 with a projected
release date of 5 October 2016. The Board of Education
objected to the motion to set aside the forfeiture on 17
a hearing on 3 October 2016, the trial court denied
Surety's motion to set aside the bond forfeiture, based
on its finding that Surety "ha[d] [not] established one
or more of the reasons specified in [ N.C. G.S. §]
15A-544.5 for setting aside [the] forfeiture." In
accordance with N.C. G.S. § 15A-544.5(d)(7) (2017), the
trial court's order provided that "the forfeiture
shall become a final judgment of forfeiture on the later of
this date or one hundred and fifty (150) days after the
'Date Notice Given[.]'" Despite denying the
motion, the trial court verbally reduced the amount of the
bond forfeiture from $2, 000.00 to $300.00. A handwritten
notation stating "Surety to pay $300" appears on
the trial court's order, also filed on 3 October 2016.
Surety paid $300.00 to the clerk of court that same day. The
Board of Education appeals.
Board of Education contends the trial court lacked statutory
authority to reduce the amount of the bond forfeiture after
denying Surety's motion to set aside the bond forfeiture.
Standard of Review
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