Bond hearings are vital part of the South Carolina criminal process because they often represent the first time a criminal defendant faces a judge. To better understand what goes on during a bond hearing in Charleston, SC, I have outlined the key components below.
Right to an attorney
Though the bond hearing is a critical step in the criminal process, it has not been found crucial enough to come with the right to counsel. The laws in South Carolina are clear that while a defendant has the right to have an attorney present during the bond hearing, there is no absolute right to representation. Essentially, you can have an attorney present and if at all possible should. However, if you do not have counsel at your bond hearing the government is not obligated to provide it for you.
Once you’ve been arrested, what happens next? The next step is the bond hearing. A bond hearing occurs within 24 hours of your arrest. The very first thing that happens during this phase will be magistrate judge or court staff announcing what you have been charged with.
The judge then reviews the case file briefly and asks the officer from arresting agency(if present) if they would like to speak to provide some facts about the case and the charges being brought against the defendant. The officer will also be asked to make a statement regarding bail. At this point, the officer makes his or her argument to the judge regarding how much bail they believe is appropriate given the particular facts case.
If a victim is involved in the case and is present or someone on behalf of the victim is present they will then have the opportunity to make a statement. The Judge may ask the victim if they any requests regarding the setting of the bond.
Finally, the defense will have a chance to speak. When this time comes, your South Carolina criminal defense lawyer can briefly explain other facts or important bits of information related to the charge or charges that might aide in having a lower bond set. Also at this time your attorney will explain your ties to the community, employment, education and family background. If any friends or family see present on your behalf they too may speak. The Judge will confirm the defendant’s current address and advise them of any upcoming court dates at this time.
After all parties have spoke the Judge will review the defendants prior record and ask any questions he or she may need clarification on. The Judge’s two main considerations when setting bond is the risk of flight for the defendant and whether or not there defendant should be considered a threat to the community. After reviewing all factors and information presented the Judge will set what he or she believes to be the proper bond. Now, for some other important bits of information.
Right to bail
The right to bail thankfully is enshrined in South Carolina’s constitution (Article I, Section 15) and says that defendants are guaranteed the right to bail pending trial except in capital cases or those matters punishable by life in prison. However, in South Carolina bond for a few most serious violent crimes cannot be set by a magistrate judge and must go in front of a circuit court judge for bond setting.
The law in South Carolina is clear that magistrate judges cannot drag their feet when addressing the issue of bail. Rules require magistrates to act quickly, assuming the person is charged with a bailable offense. Specifically, the bond hearing must be conducted within 24 hours of the person’s arrest. After that, the person must then be released within a reasonable time, not to exceed four hours, after the bond has been paid.
Bail cannot be excessive
The point of bail is to ensure that the person charged with a crime has a financial incentive to return to court and face his or her charges. The goal is to set the amount high enough so that fleeing the jurisdiction would be an unpleasant or costly choice. Thankfully, judges are somewhat constrained and are not allowed to set unjustifiably high bail. In fact, magistrate judges in SouthCarolina are specifically prohibited from setting bail at an amount higher than is reasonable to ensure the presence of the defendant at trial.
If you have further questions, or need representation for a bond hearing, contact criminal defense attorney David Aylor at 843-310-4900 or click the “LIVE CHAT” button on this page.