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What is the bond process in South Carolina?

Once you are charged and arrested for an offense, you will be taken to jail. Which jail you are taken to will vary depending on which jurisdiction you were arrested in, and who the arresting agency was. For example, if you were arrested by the Surfside Police Department, you will most likely be taken to the jail in Surfside- however, even if you were arrested in Surfside Beach, you may be taken to J. Reuben Long Detention Center if you were arrested by Horry County Police.

After you’re booked into the jail, you are entitled to a bond hearing. A bond hearing at jail will be held in front of a magistrate judge or municipal judge. For relatively minor offenses such as Simple Possession of Marijuana and Driving Under the Influence, 1st offense, the amount of your bond will typically be the maximum fine allowed by law for your offense- in the case of a DUI, that amount is typically $1022 (if you blew under a .10 BAC) and for Simple Possession of Marijuana it is typically $620. For other, more serious offenses, the judge will consider a variety of factors, including your ties to the community, how long you’ve lived in the area, whether you own any real property in the area, your prior criminal history, the seriousness of the offense you are accused of, and whether or not a “victim” is involved in your case. The judge will set your bond at an amount he/she feels is appropriate to ensure you do not flee from legal proceedings.

What is a Personal Recognizance Bond or PR Bond?

A Personal Recognizance Bond is a bond set by the judge that requires no cash or surety unless you do not appear in court as required. Defendants that receive a Personal Recognizance bond will typically be free to leave jail without putting up any money and without needing to hire a bondsman. Personal Recognizance Bonds are typically given to first-time, low level offenders who have little or no prior record and seem to pose no danger to the community.

What is a Surety Bond?

A surety bond is a bond that is secured by an outside party, typically a licensed, professional bondsman. Bondsmen will typically require a percentage payment of your total bond. For example, if your bond is set by a magistrate judge at $50,000, a bondsman may require a certain percentage (often around 10%) of the bond to be paid to them as a fee for them to pay the $50,000 bond. The bondsman may also set certain requirements for them to stay on your bond- such as check-ins, etc.

What if my bond is denied?

Magistrate judges do not have jurisdiction to set bond on certain offenses. These offenses include Murder, Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the First Degree, and other offenses that carry a possible term of life imprisonment. Furthermore, a new South Carolina law, 17-15-55(C), forbids magistrate judges from setting bond on a violent offense if the defendant is already out on bond for another violent offense. For example, if you are on bond for Attempted Murder and are arrested again for Attempted Murder, a magistrate judge does not have the authority to set your bond. Also- if a magistrate judge deems it appropriate, bond may be denied if you are charged with a violent offense.

If your bond is denied by a magistrate judge, you are entitled to a bond hearing by a circuit court judge. The primary factors that a circuit judge will consider is whether you are a possible flight risk, and whether you are a danger to the community. A circuit judge will set or deny your bond solely on those factors.

If your bond is denied by a circuit judge, it is unlikely you will receive a bond. South Carolina law 17-15-55(A)(2) forbids the circuit judge from reconsidering bond once it is denied, absent a “change in circumstances.” The “Change in Circumstances” rule is amorphous, and “information regarding defendant’s guilt or innocence” is not a factor that constitutes a change in circumstances. Essentially, even if you can prove your innocence while in jail, if your bond is denied- you cannot get out before trial unless the Solicitor consents.

Obtaining a reasonable bond in South Carolina is the first step in the path to vindication for most criminal defendants. Call 803-406-4376 today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options to get the fair, reasonable bond that you are entitled to.

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