Can you leave the state if you have charges pending?
The answer is probably not, unless 1) the judge made a specific finding at your bond hearing that you would be permitted to travel to another state or 2) you or your attorney have moved to amend your bond conditions.
Travel restrictions are an automatic, standard provision of every defendant’s bond – regardless of whether they are charged with murder or charged with driving under suspension in the city court.
Below, we will talk about why that doesn’t make sense, including:
- SC law on travel restrictions as a standard condition of bond,
- Why travel restrictions should be the exception and not the rule, and
- Other bond conditions that might not make any sense depending on the circumstances of the case.
Bond Conditions in SC – Can You Leave the State if You Have Charges Pending?
Many possible bond conditions can be imposed by the court when a person is arrested and released pending trial – some are standard provisions that are automatically included on the form the court signs, while others are at the court’s discretion.
One of the automatic restrictions that is imposed in every case, large or small, is a requirement that the defendant not leave the state. It is included on the Bail Proceeding Form used by bond judges, and it is required by law.
SC Code § 17-15-20 makes travel restrictions a standard condition of bond in SC:
(A) An appearance recognizance or appearance bond must be conditioned on the person charged personally appearing before the court specified to answer the charge or indictment and to do and receive what is enjoined by the court, and not to leave the State, and be of good behavior toward all the citizens of the State, or especially toward a person or persons specified by the court.
This is a condition of every bond in SC unless the Court makes a specific finding otherwise – if you are charged with a crime, even if it is a minor offense in the magistrate or municipal court, you are prohibited from leaving the state unless you first get consent from the court.
Travel Restrictions Should be the Exception, Not the Rule
In today’s society, an automatic travel restriction does not make sense – we have clients who live in other states, who work in other states, who take vacations in other states, and who have family in other states – including children they must transport pursuant to family court visitation orders.
Getting permission for a client to leave the state is not a simple process, and, in many cases, it requires filing a motion, scheduling a hearing, and arguing to the court why the travel restrictions are unnecessary.
If a person is charged with shoplifting in the municipal court, why do we need to waste the attorney’s time, the prosecutor’s time, and the court’s time to file motions and request amendments to bond conditions so that the defendant can go to their mother’s funeral, take a work-related trip, or just return to their home in North Carolina?
Do we really need courts and prosecutors to police every defendant’s work trips, family vacations, or weekend getaways?
Travel restrictions within the country should not be a standard condition of bond for every defendant regardless of their flight risk or the severity of their charges.
The court should 1) have the option of restricting a defendant’s travel, but 2) make that decision on a case-by-case basis depending on whether the defendant is charged with murder or petty larceny and whether the defendant is truly a flight risk.
Other Bond Conditions that Don’t Make Sense
We have also seen bond judges imposing conditions that aren’t required by law and that don’t really make sense in the context of a particular case. For example:
No contact provisions
In most cases where there is an alleged victim, the court will include a no-contact provision in the bond order. This makes sense in many cases where there is a risk of the defendant causing harm to the alleged victim while their court case is pending, and it makes sense when the alleged victim requests a no-contact provision.
But what about cases where the alleged victim is married to the defendant, denies the allegations, and does not want the case to be prosecuted?
Although the case is going nowhere, the prosecutor will often sit on it until the last minute, or sometimes attempt to try the case without a victim. In the meantime, the court has, against the alleged victim’s wishes, ordered a father to remain separate from his children or a husband to remain separate from his wife.
Although no-contact provisions are absolutely called for in many cases, bond courts should carefully consider whether it is just, whether it is necessary, whether it will cause unnecessary harm to the defendant’s and alleged victim’s family, and whether the alleged victim is asking for a no-contact provision.
Ankle monitors are another commonly used bond provision that makes sense when there is an alleged victim who is asking for help and when the allegations are serious.
Ankle monitors should not be a standard condition of bond for defendants when there is no compelling reason for them, however.
Ordering GPS or electronic monitoring, which has a monthly cost, as a condition of release for a defendant charged with a drug crime, a minor magistrate-level offense, or any victimless crime benefits no one other than the monitoring company who is profiting from the court’s order…
Substance abuse treatment or counseling
Many criminal defendants can benefit from substance abuse treatment or other forms of therapy, but it should never be a condition of a person’s bond.
Substance abuse treatment instead of prison is a compassionate sentence that makes sense – once a person has been convicted of the crime with which they are charged.
Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until they plead guilty or are found guilty by a judge or jury, and bond conditions are not a green light for a judge to examine a person’s life and attempt to force them to conform to the judge’s morals or ideals…
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Columbia, SC, and Myrtle Beach, SC
The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
We are not former prosecutors and have no intention of ever helping the government prosecute and imprison citizens.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.