What happens after the arrest…

You’ve received a phone call that your loved one is in jail.

Or maybe you, yourself, are sitting in a holding cell.

You want to do everything to get out as quickly as possible. You’ve seen people on TV, including actors, professional athletes and politicians walk out of jail before their trials.

So how did they get out? The answer is: They were successful at their bond hearing and they had a basic understanding of how bond hearings work in SC.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about how bond hearings work in South Carolina.

What is a bond hearing?

A bond hearing is where a judge determines if someone under arrest can be released from jail between the date of the hearing and the time the criminal case is decided. A bond hearing is sometimes called a bail hearing.

The state presents the judge with the defendant’s charges. The judge looks at several factors when making the decision of whether or not to allow a defendant out on bond. The primary considerations are:

  1. The likelihood the defendant will run away before the trial begins. The basic question is, “Is this person a flight risk?”
  2. The judge gathers information about whether the defendant is a danger to the community. The second question is, “Is this person going to harm someone, such as the accuser or arresting officer?”

With some exceptions, an adult is entitled to a bond hearing within 48 hours of being arrested. At the bond hearing the merit of the case or the probable cause for arrest are not discussed. Only the issue of setting a bond is discussed at this hearing. Since the judge only has to decide one issue, a bond hearing does not last very long. Once your bond is set and posted, you should walk out of the jail in four hours or less. You may be released on your own recognizance (PR or Personal Recognizance), which means that you will be released without paying a bond, or having a surety post a bond.

How do I find out when my bond hearing is scheduled?

To find out the date and time of your bond hearing, contact the clerk of court in the county where the arrest was made. You might be able to find out by telephone, but sometimes the clerk will not release the information over the phone. Your attorney can find out this information by faxing a request to the clerk.

What are the types of bonds?

A judge can order one of two types of bonds:

Getting a PR bond means the judge lets you out without putting up any money. If you’ve been a model citizen up to this point in your life, your chances of getting a PR bond are pretty good depending on the charge against you. A surety bond means you need a bail bondsman to put up money for you. You pay the bondsman a non-refundable fee for his services.

At his or her discretion, the judge can also place conditions on the defendant. For instance, the judge may order the defendant to remain in the state or to refrain from contacting the crime victim.

What if I cannot afford to pay my bond?

You can take this issue up with the Circuit Court to see if that judge will change the bond amount set by the magistrate. Otherwise, the only way a judge will change the bond ruling is if circumstances change significantly. The way this usually happens is when some big piece of information comes to the judge’s attention after the original bond hearing.

Do I need a bondsman?

If the judge orders a surety bond, yes, you need a bondsman. If you’re released on a PR bond, no, you do not need a bondsman.

Can bond be denied? If so, what can I do?

For some crimes, the magistrate judge can deny bond. Your attorney can file a motion to reconsider bond with the clerk of the court, and the General Sessions judge can modify the bond amount or conditions of release.

Are bond hearings open to public? Can anyone attend?

Yes, bond hearings are open to the public. The defendant may appear by videoconference instead of in person if he or she agrees to do so.

How long does it take to be released from jail?

After your bond hearing, it should take no more than four hours to be released.

Have more legal questions?

Do you have a question related to criminal charges or how bond hearings work in SC? Timothy Kulp is a board certified specialist in criminal trial advocacy and has been since 1999. So with more than 30 years of experience in criminal defense, Kulp & Elliott is prepared to answer your legal questions. Dial 843-853-3310 to speak with him.

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