Please See Below for a Transcript of the Video
Hi, I’m Richard Waring, and I’m a criminal defense attorney in Charleston, SC. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (aka PWID Cocaine) or some other drug crime, Unlawful Carry of a Pistol, Breach of Trust, or some other kind of crime, you might have asked yourself, “what is a bond hearing and what happens there?”
In South Carolina, when you get arrested for a crime, soon after your arrest, sometime that same day, or sometimes the next day, you’ll have your initial bond hearing. Depending on which county of South Carolina you’re in, that hearing could take place at the bond court that is attached to your local county jail. And, the reason you’re having a bond hearing in the first place is because you need to have a judge set the bond on your charge. In other words, the judge has to officially set the terms under which you can get out of jail.
At that initial bond hearing, the judge will hear whether you have a criminal history, will generally hear the basic facts of the case, and then will consider two main factors: (1) whether you are a flight risk, and (2) whether you are a danger to the community. The answer to those two questions, in general, determines what type of bond you get and how much that total bond amount is. Other conditions the court will consider are your criminal history, your character and mental condition, your ties to the local community, employment history, your financial situation, and how long you’ve lived in the area where you allegedly committed the crime, to name a few.
In general, in my experience, the two most common forms of bail bonds are personal recognizance bonds (aka PR bonds) and surety bonds. The best type of bail bond you could hope for is the PR bond, and with that type of bond, you generally don’t have to pay anything in order to get out of jail; however, you do have to agree to be available for court dates. Keep in mind, PR bonds are generally only given for less serious crimes, so I wouldn’t expect to see a PR bond on a serious charge such as an armed robbery or attempted murder case.
With surety bonds, a bonding company or bondsman gets involved. And that bondsman essentially agrees to be on the hook for the full amount of the bond that the judge has ordered on your charges in addition to agreeing to ensure that you show up for court. In return, you, the defendant, typically have to pay the bondsman an amount of money that typically is about 10% of the total bond amount. Generally, this 10% is non-refundable. If you fail to show up for court appearances or violate the conditions of your bond, the bondsman is at risk of having the bond estreated. In other words, the courts can order that the bondsman must pay the full amount of your bond. So, you can rest assured that the bondsman will be trying to ensure that you show up for court and otherwise comply with the conditions of your bond.
Keep in mind that when a bail bondsman is involved, they are an additional organization that can throw you back in jail if you don’t show up for court and/or violate the terms of your bond. I’ve seen countless examples where the bondsman had to track down a defendant and put them back in jail after they were out on bond for a crime but then reoffended or otherwise violated their bond.
Two lesser used types of bail bonds are cash bonds and cash percentage of bonds. With a cash bond, the entire amount of the bond would have to be deposited with the court either by the defendant or by someone else. Whoever provides that entire amount to the court would ultimately get all of that money back at the end of the case, provided the defendant doesn’t violate his or her bond. With a cash percentage of bond, only around 10% would have to be deposited with the court instead of the full amount, but otherwise this type of bond is similar to a cash bond.
Alright, so you’ve been arrested. Now, you’re at the initial bond hearing. The crime you allegedly committed isn’t serious, and you’ve got no criminal history. The judge gives you a PR bond. Now, you can get out of jail and, in general, you don’t really have any conditions on your back other than making sure you show up for court and otherwise don’t reoffend. Let’s change up the circumstances a little bit now. You’ve been arrested for a moderately serious crime. The judge gives you a $20,000 surety bond. In order to get out of jail, you’re going to have to find and call a bail bondsman and pay them, in general, 10% of that $20,000 in order to get out.
OK, I want to look at one more scenario. You’ve just been charged with a very serious crime such as armed robbery, attempted murder, or burglary 1st degree. If the allegations are bad enough and/or you have a lengthy or serious criminal history, the magistrate judge may decide to not set the bond at all on your case. At that point, you won’t get out of jail, and you will have to sit for a period of time until you can get another bond hearing, hopefully with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney, scheduled in General Sessions court (this is the trial court in South Carolina where all of the felonies are prosecuted and all of the misdemeanors that carry punishment in excess of 30 days). Alternatively, you could simply just get a very high bond, and you’d have to give up 10% of that bond in order to get out.
Last scenario I want to go over: if you’ve been arrested for murder, homicide by child abuse, or some other extremely serious enumerated crime, you 100% will not be getting a bond set at your initial bond hearing. And, the reason for this is that the legislature has determined that magistrates are not allowed to set bonds on those particular crimes. So, in this scenario, you would have to wait for a future bond hearing in General Sessions court that ideally you would have a criminal defense attorney in your area assist you with.
Now, briefly I’d like to go over some of the possible conditions that a judge can order on your bond. In other words, these are the conditions that you have to comply with to avoid being in violation of your bond and having your bond revoked (and revocation of your bond just means that your freedom will be taken away again and you will be put back in jail for a period of time). In general, the most common conditions of your bond will be that you have to be on good behavior, you can’t leave the state of South Carolina, and if there’s a victim involved, typically you won’t be allowed to have any contact with that victim whatsoever. If you’ve been charged with a very serious crime or the circumstances of the case warrant it, a judge may put you on house arrest and may even order that a GPS monitor be put on you to ensure you don’t violate your house arrest. If you have a substance abuse or mental health issue, a judge may order that you get some kind of treatment. Lastly, if you plan on changing addresses while you’re out on bond, you’ll have to notify the court of that change.
Maybe you’re sitting in jail and have wondered whether there’s any light at the end of the tunnel? Well, you can file a motion every six months from the last bond hearing to have your bond matter reconsidered. In addition, if there’s otherwise been a material or significant change in circumstances, you can file a motion to reconsider your bond as well. The important thing to keep in mind is that a criminal defense attorney, who knows what they’re doing, can facilitate this process for you so that you don’t have to stress over the details while you’re sitting in jail. I can tell you first-hand from my experience from when I was a prosecutor that those defendants who tried to represent themselves at bond hearings frequently did not get great results at their bond hearings. This is not a situation where you can just walk into court and wing it, hoping for a good result.
The final take-away is that bail bonds can be a really serious matter, and if you don’t take them seriously, it’s not a question of if your freedom will be taken away, it’s when. In addition, any violation of your bond will most likely factor into the prosecutor’s decision of how to resolve the charge that you’re originally on bond for. So, if you’re out on bond and are considering doing something that could be considered a violation of your bond, just remember that nothing good will come from that action.
And, if you’re in the Charleston, SC area and need a criminal defense attorney on your DUI, assault and battery, burglary, possession of marijuana, or other kind of case, give me a call and we can figure things out. Having an experienced trial attorney, who is a former prosecutor, on your side is the kind of representation you’ll want. Best of luck.
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