Remember playing the game Monopoly as a kid? Drawing a card from the “chance” pile could get you sent to jail. Logically, another could get you out of jail for free.
Of course, in real life, there’s no such thing as a “get out of jail free” card. Suppose that one day you, a friend, or a family member lands in jail. Someone will have to pay for the arrested person to get out.
In the unfortunate event that day ever comes, understanding the basics about bail bonds and bond hearings will come in handy. An experienced criminal defense attorney can answer all of your questions about the bail and bond process.
Common Questions about Bail Bonds & Bond Hearings
As a starting point to help you get familiar with bail bonds and bond hearings in South Carolina, we’ve collected questions frequently asked by our clients and provided the answers for you below.
1. What is a bond hearing?
A bond hearing is the first step in the criminal process after the arrest of an individual. At this hearing, the judge determines the conditions according to which the individual can be released from jail—in other words, make bail. However, bail isn’t always granted. In that case, the defendant will have to remain in jail until his or her case is resolved or an attorney request a second bail hearing.
2. What happens at a bond hearing?
The judge at the bond hearing decides whether the arrested individual may leave jail or whether he or she must stay incarcerated throughout his or her criminal proceedings.
3. Are bond hearings open to public?
Generally, yes, bond hearings are open to the public.
4. Can you appeal a bond hearing?
Yes! Bond can be modified in two ways – it can be lowered and it can be raised. If you need to get your bond modified you can file a motion called a “Motion to Reconsider Bond.” If you have an attorney, he or she will handle the appeal. A General Sessions judge will then consider the motion and make a ruling.
5. How long do bond hearings last?
Bond hearings are not long, like trials. At a bond hearing your attorney will present an argument on your behalf on why you are not a flight risk or danger to community in order to receive a reasonable bond to therefore be released from jail.
6. What does bond revocation hearing mean?
A bond revocation hearing would take place if you didn’t comply with the conditions of your bond. Your bond could be revoked in that situation, meaning you would likely spend the remainder of your criminal proceedings in jail.
7. How do I request a bond hearing?
Anyone who is under arrest has the right to a reasonable bond by law, so everyone is entitled to a bond hearing. If you have an attorney, he or she will schedule your bond hearing with the prosecutor.
In South Carolina the general rule for bond hearings is that the hearing should take place within 24 hours of the arrest. Most bond hearings are conducted by Magistrate or Municipal judges. However, if you are facing charges for a crime that’s punishable by life in prison or capital punishment, then a Circuit Court judge must preside over your bond hearing.
8. Is a bond hearing an arraignment?
No, a bond hearing is different from an arraignment, although the two proceedings can occur at the same time.
An arraignment is when the defendant is presented with a formal reading of the charges and is expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
9. What types of bond are there?
South Carolina has a few types of bonds that can get a defendant out of jail. They are:
- Cash bond
- Cash percentage of bond
- Personal recognizance bond
- Surety bond
Here’s a brief description of each bond type:
Cash bond: Requires the defendant to pay the full amount of the bond set by the court.
Cash percentage of bond: Requires the defendant to pay 10 percent of the bond amount to the Clerk of Court. For example, a $100,000 bond would require a $10,000 deposit. If the defendant violates the terms of bail, the court will seize his or her assets to get the full amount of the bond.
Personal recognizance bond: The only type of bond that doesn’t require money to get out of jail. The defendant gives his or her word that they’ll appear for court proceedings. “PR bonds,” as these are called, are usually offered to:
- First-time offenders
- Minor offenses
- Defendants with substantial ties to the community
- Defendants that are a low flight risk
Surety bond: Requires the defendant to pay money or pledge collateral—such as property.
10. How does the judge decide which type of bond to order?
The judge decides bond at his or her discretion, meaning any factors can influence the decision. The influencing factors can include:
- Previous criminal record
- Prior bond violations
- Whether the defendant is a flight risk
- Whether the defendant is a threat to society
11. What are “conditions” of bail bonds?
The conditions are the rules an individual has to follow to stay out of jail on bond. Breaking any of the rules will probably land the person right back in jail to await trial.
12. What are the typical conditions of bail bonds?
There are many possible conditions of bail bonds, but there are some conditions that are common to most cases in South Carolina. For instance:
- Don’t contact the alleged victims of the charged crime
- Don’t communicate with the co-defendants of the charged crime
- Don’t leave the state without the court’s permission
- Exhibit good behavior
- Notify the court of any change in address
13. Do I need to hire a bail bondsman to get out of jail in SC?
No, you don’t have to hire a bail bondsman. Still, people often opt to use bail bondsmen to pay a surety bond, particularly if they can’t pay the amount themselves.
How it works is the defendant—or his or her family or friends—pay a non-refundable fee to a bail bondsman. The bondsman then pays bail to the jail to get the defendant out.
14. Can I ever get my bail money back from the bondsman?
No. The amount you pay to a bail bondsman is non-refundable, so you can’t get it back.
15. Are bail bondsmen law enforcement?
No, bail bondsmen aren’t law enforcement. They are businesspeople who make their living by posting bail for people in exchange for a non-refundable fee. In South Carolina, bail bondsmen are required to take a state exam and obtain a license.
16. Do bail bondsmen take credit cards?
Many bail bondsmen will take credit cards. Keep in mind that bail bondsmen can determine what types of payment are accepted.
17. Can a bail bondsman revoke bail?
No. Bail bondsmen don’t represent the justice department. Only judges can revoke bail.
18. Do I need an attorney at my bond hearing?
You aren’t required to have an attorney at your bond hearing. However, having an attorney to represent you is highly recommended.
The information presented at your bond hearing is all the judge has to go on to decide how to set your bond. Criminal attorneys who have experience arguing before judges will know how to present your case for bond, because they understand that what is said about you in front of the judge is important. In many cases, the statements presented by an attorney are all the judge has as a basis to develop his or her decision, aside from the charges against you.
What’s the next step?
If you or a loved one is awaiting a bond hearing, you don’t have much time to take action. We don’t have “get out of jail free” cards, but we can work with you toward achieving the best possible outcome.
Contact us for a free consultation about your case. Dial (843) 488-5000, or fill out our online form.