How do bail/ bond hearings work in SC?
When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, their first priority is usually getting out of jail…
In most cases, the person can be released on their own recognizance or by paying a surety bond, but, in other cases, bond can be denied, or the court may set a bond that is too high for the defendant to pay.
Below, we will provide an overview of bond hearings in SC, including:
- The procedure for bond hearings in SC,
- Types of bond in SC,
- When the SC Constitution guarantees a bond, and
- When SC law guarantees a bond.
How Bond Hearings in SC Work
Our first job in many cases, when our client or their family calls us immediately after an arrest or even before an arrest, is to get our client released from jail on a PR bond or a surety bond that is affordable for them.
At the bond hearing, a magistrate or municipal court judge will consider whether the person should get a PR bond, another type of bond, or no bond at all based on statutory factors found in SC law.
Types of Bond in SC
The types of bond that the court may order include:
- A PR bond (personal recognizance) – you are released without paying money,
- A surety bond – you must retain a bondsman and pay their fee before you are released (and they are responsible for ensuring that you show up on your court date),
- A 10% bond – you pay 10% of the full bond amount to the clerk of court, or
- A cash bond – you pay the full amount of the bond to the clerk of court.
Statutory Factors the Bond Court Must Consider
SC Code § 22-5-510 lists the factors that the bond court must consider when determining whether a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community, including:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense charged,
- Family ties,
- Financial resources,
- Character and mental condition,
- How long they have lived in the community,
- Their criminal history,
- Any record of failure to appear in court or evading law enforcement,
- Other pending charges,
- The incident reports related to the current charge, and
- “Any other information that will assist the court in determining conditions of release.”
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bond Hearing in SC?
- 22-5-510 also says that a defendant who is “charged with a bailable offense must have a bond hearing within 24 hours of his arrest,” and, once the jail has received notice of the bond, they must be released “within a reasonable time, not to exceed four hours.”
In most cases, this means that the bond hearing will be held the morning after a person is arrested.
The SC Constitution Guarantees the Right to a Bond in Some Cases
Article I, Section 15 of the SC Constitution guarantees the right to bail for every person who is not charged with a capital offense, an offense punishable by life in prison, or violent offenses as defined in SC Code § 16-1-60:
All persons shall be, before conviction, bailable by sufficient sureties, but bail may be denied to persons charged with capital offenses or offenses punishable by life imprisonment, or with violent offenses defined by the General Assembly, giving due weight to the evidence and to the nature and circumstances of the event. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor shall excessive fines be imposed, nor shall cruel, nor corporal, nor unusual punishment be inflicted, nor shall witnesses be unreasonably detained. (1970 (56) 2684; 1971 (57) 315; 1998 Act No. 259.)
If a person is charged with a capital offense, an offense punishable by life in prison, or a violent offense, the court can deny bond only after “giving due weight to the evidence and to the nature and circumstances of the event.”
SC Code § 17-15-10, however, requires the court to give every defendant a PR bond unless they are a flight risk or a danger to the community (see below).
Other SC Constitutional Guarantees Related to Bail/ Bond
Article I, Section 15 of the SC Constitution also guarantees that:
- Bail will not be excessive,
- Cruel, corporal, or unusual punishment will not be imposed, and
- Witnesses will not be detained unreasonably.
SC Code § 17-15-10 Guarantees a PR Bond Unless…
SC Code § 17-15-10 mandates (the law uses the language “shall,” which means it is mandatory) that bond courts give every defendant who is charged with a noncapital offense a PR (personal recognizance) bond unless the court determines that the person is a flight risk or a danger to the community.
If the court determines that the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community, based on the 22-5-510 factors listed above, then the court “may impose any one or more of the following conditions of release:”
- A surety bond,
- Designation of a person or organization who will supervise the defendant,
- Travel, association, or residence restrictions,
- Curfew, or
- Any other condition that is necessary to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court.
This statute mandates that the bond court 1) give every defendant a PR bond unless they are a flight risk or danger to the community, 2) place conditions on the defendant’s release if they are a flight risk or danger to the community, and 3) only deny bond in capital cases.
Bond Hearings for Magistrate and Municipal Court Offenses
SC Code § 22-5-530 limits the bond that can be set in magistrate or municipal court cases to the maximum fine that the person would have to pay if they were convicted:
(A) A person charged and to be tried before a magistrate or municipal judge for a violation of law is entitled to deposit with the magistrate or municipal judge, in lieu of entering into recognizance, a sum of money not to exceed the maximum fine in the case for which the person is to be tried. However, an individualized hearing must be held when the person is charged with a violation of the provisions of Chapter 25, Title 16 and the victim of the offense must be notified pursuant to the provisions of Section 16-3-1525(H).
When a person is charged with a misdemeanor offense in the magistrate or municipal court, the bond judge cannot 1) deny bond or 2) set a bond that is greater than the maximum fine allowed upon conviction.
Bond Hearings – Reconsiderations
If bond is denied, the bond set by a magistrate is unreasonably high, or the person is charged with an offense where the bond can only be set by a circuit court judge (any offense punishable by life in prison except for burglary charges), the person’s attorney can file a motion to set bond or a motion to modify the bond conditions in the circuit court and ask a circuit court judge to set a reasonable bond.
If the bond court makes a mistake, sets an unlawful bond, or denies bond unlawfully, the defendant’s attorney can 1) file a motion to reconsider, 2) appeal the magistrate’s decision (file a bond motion in the circuit court), or 3) file a writ of habeas corpus if the person is being held unlawfully.
Can I Hire a Bail/ Bond Lawyer Just for the Bond Hearing?
Some attorneys advertise themselves as “bond lawyers” who will allow clients to retain them solely for their bond hearing.
Although it is true that, in general, a lawyer and client can limit the goals of representation through their fee agreement, no provision in SC law allows for a criminal defense lawyer to just stop representing a criminal client after their bond hearing (there is such a provision limited to preliminary hearings – see SC Code § 17-23-165).
If you retain an attorney solely for your bond hearing and you do not pay them to handle your case, you may find yourself “stuck in limbo” – the court, public defender’s office, and solicitor believe that the private attorney is representing you, the private attorney is refusing to take any action on your case because you haven’t paid them, and so you stay in jail or no work is done on your case until it is sorted out…
Your best bet is to immediately find the right attorney to handle your case – your entire case, retain them, and have them appear for your bond hearing.
Bail/ Bond Lawyers in Columbia, Lexington, 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.
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.