Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bail bond?
A bail bond acts as an insurance policy whereby the bail bond company guarantees to the court that the person obtaining the bail bond will make all their required appearances in court. If the individual appears in court as ordered, then the bail bond is never in jeopardy. However, if the individual fails to appear, their is a bench warrant issued on the individual, and the bail company is notified of this by the court. At that time, the bail bond company must surrender that individual back into custody. If the bail bond company fails to surrender that person back into custody in a given amount of time, then they are forced to pay the entire amount of the bail bond to the court.
What does it cost to obtain a bail bond?
The cost of obtaining a bail bond start at 5% flat rates of the bond. However, there are occasions where we will take a lower percentage down and have weekly or monthly payments in an afford to work with the individual through economic hardships.
What should be done if an individual misses a court appearance?
If an individual misses court for any reason, you should contact us immediately. |We will do everything in our means to get your bail bond promptly reinstated. It is our objective to keep you out of jail and on bail throughout your entire court proceedings.
How will I know when the terms of my bail bond are complete?
Upon completion of your case, the judge will "EXONERATE" your bail bond. At this point, the bail bond is no longer active.
What is General Sessions Court?
South Carolina Circuit Courts are divided into two divisions:
1) General Sessions (criminal court); and
2) Common Pleas (civil court). General Sessions Court handles felony and misdemeanor criminal cases ranging from those with a penalty of more than 30 days and I or a $500 fine to those carrying the death penalty. The Magistrate and Municipal court system handles misdemeanor offenses with a penalty of 30 days or less and I or a fine of up to $500.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Felony and misdemeanor are legal terms describing the seriousness of a crime. A felony is a very serious crime. Felonies generally carry long prison sentences of a year or more. Examples of a felony are attempted murder and cocaine trafficking. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime. Misdemeanors carry shorter prison sentences. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include simple possession of marijuana, simple assault and battery, and tampering with an electric meter.
What are the steps in a criminal case?
After an arrest, a General Sessions case usually follows these steps:
- Bond hearing. This hearing occurs within 24 hours of arrest. The judge determines whether a person held in custody can be released on bond. The judge evaluates whether the defendant is a danger to the community or is likely to run away before trial. If a judge decides to release someone on bond, he sets the amount and conditions of the bond.
- Preliminary hearing. These hearings are available to defendants charged with serious offenses triable only in General Sessions Court. The defendant has the right to request a preliminary hearing within 10 days of the bond hearing.
- Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is a panel of citizens convened by the court to decide whether it is appropriate to bring charges against someone suspected of a crime. If the Grand Jury decides there is reason to bring someone to trial, it returns a "true bill" and issues an indictment. If it finds insufficient reason, it returns a "no bill." A direct indictment is an indictment that occurs before an arrest. In this case, the defendant or his attorney arranges for the person to turn themselves into the police for processing and a bond hearing.
- First appearance ("Roll Call"). The first court date, known as "roll call," is set within 45 days of arrest. Courts usually hold these on Fridays. The judge or solicitor asks the defendant or his lawyer basic questions. The judge also puts the case on a schedule. The purpose of the first appearance is to make sure the defendant will appear at trial and that he has access to a lawyer. If the defendant fails to appear, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest.
- Second appearance. The second court date is set within 120 days of arrest. Courts usually hold these on Fridays. The defendant tells the judge whether he wants to plead guilty or request a jury trial. The judge places the case on either a plea or a trial schedule. If the defendant fails to appear, the judge will 1ssue a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest.
- Trial. During a jury trial, the jury listens to evidence and determines if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge imposes a sentence, which can include imprisonment, fines, probation, and death.
- Appeals. The defendant has 10 days after sentencin to file an appeal of a guilty plea or trial verdict. Most appeals go to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Appellate courts look for legal error in the conduct of the trial, but they cannot retry any facts already decided by a jury at trial. Defendants, witnesses, and others do not participate at this stage. If the appellate court finds legal error, it can send the case back to General Sessions Court for retrial or sentencing.
How do I post bond?
At the bond hearing a judge sets the amount and conditions of a bond. See this form used at the hearing. Magistrate or Municipal judges conduct most bond hearings. Circuit Court judges must set bond on charges where the penalty is life imprisonment or death. Depending on the nature of the charges, several methods of posting bond are available in South Carolina. Generally, a defendant's family, lawyer, or bonding company deposits bail with the Clerk of Court. The Clerk then provides a release letter. The family, lawyer, or bonding company takes the letter to the detention center to begin processing the defendant's release. For detailed information on bail proceedings, see the South Carolina Bench Book for Magistrates and Municipal Judges, Criminal Chapter, Section E "Bail Proceedings."
What is a Personal Recognizance Bond?
When released on a personal recognizance bond, a defendant gives the court his word that he will show up to future court dates. The defendant also acknowledges a debt to the court equal to the total amount of the bond. If the defendant breaks the conditions of his bond, he owes this debt to the court, and the judge may revoke his bond and return him to jail. Judges use Bail Proceeding Form I for personal recognizance bonds. In normal circumstances, courts release defendants on personal recognizance bonds before trial. However, if the bonding court determines that the defendant might skip court appearances or cause an unreasonable danger to the community, it will not release the defendant on a personal recognizance bond. Judges have a choice in makina this determination. If the judge determines that the defendant is likely to skip court appearances or pose an unreasonable danger to the community, the judge may place conditions on the defendant's release and I or require a cash bond. Typical conditions include limiting who the defendant can associate with, where the defendant can travel, and where the defendant can live.
What is "cash in lieu of bond"?
When released on cash in lieu of bond, the defendant pays the entire amount of his bond to the court. If the defendant violates the conditions of his release, he may forfeit the entire amount.
What is a Surety Bond?
A surety is someone who guarantees the court that a defendant will appear at court and obey bond conditions. Bail bondsmen are the most common sureties. Bail bondsmen are licensed by the state and have standing lines of credit with the courts. They charge fees for their services, generally requiring an initial payment totaling 10-15% of the overall bond amount. Family members or other individuals also act as sureties. An individual can secure the release of a defendant by depositing the entire amount of the bond with the court or by pledging property to the court as collateral. If the defendant violates the terms of his release, the surety may lose the bond amount or property. Bail Proceeding Form II covers cash payments and surety bonds.
How do I get the bond amount modified?
A General Sessions judge can modify a bond set by a Magistrate or Municipal Court judge. Modifications go both ways, judges can increase or decrease the bond amount. To get a bond modification, file a Motion to Reconsider Bond with the Clerk of Court. When is my trial date? Circuit Solicitors keep the trial schedule, which is called a "roster" or "docket". There are 16 circuits in South Carolina. The Commission on Prosecution Coordination has a listing of the Circuit Solicitors' contact information on its website.
How do I find out if there is a bench warrant on me?
Judges issue bench warrants when a defendant fails to show up for a court appearance. After your first appearance, you must show up every time there is a General Sessions term of court in your county. The Judicial Department calendar lists terms of court. Use this...r:I@Q> to access the calendar and find out when General Sessions is sitting in your county. Check with your local law enforcement office or the Clerk of Court to find out if a judge issued a bench or arrest warrant against you.
What if I do not have the money for a lawyer?
If you are accused of a crime punishable by imprisonment, you are constitutionally entitled to legal representation. If you cannot afford a lawyer and meet certain financial qualifications, a Public Defender will represent you. How do I apply for a Public Defender? Contact the Public Defender's office in the county where you were charged with a crime. The office will require you to complete the Affidavit of lndigency and Application for Counsel and a screening interview. Most Public Defenders conduct screening in detention centers and in their offices. The Commission on Indigent Defense maintains a list of Public Defenders' offices on its website.
Why do I have to pay a $40 application fee?
South Carolina law requires that every person who applies for a Public Defender pay the fee.
What if I cannot afford the fee?
If you cannot afford the fee, the court may waive or reduce it.
Can I choose who represents me?
You do not get to choose your appointed lawyer. Public Defenders and appointed lawyers are all lawyers in good standing with the South Carolina Bar.
What if I am not satisfied with my appointed lawyer?
If you are not satisfied with your appointed lawyer, you should first talk to that lawyer about your concerns. Sometimes the judge asks the defendant if he was satisfied with his appointed lawyer. The only way to remove your lawyer is to make a Motion to Relieve Counsel. You can ask your lawyer to make this motion to the judge. Judges have a choice to grant and deny these motions. A defendant must show sufficient cause to have his lawyer removed. Sufficient cause is a tough standard to meet. Disliking your lawyer or disagreeing with your lawyer is not sufficient grounds for removal.
What are the qualifications of a Public Defender?
Public Defenders are lawyers licensed and qualified to practice law in South Carolina. Some Public Defenders are employees of Circuit Public Defender offices. Other Public Defenders are private lawyers appointed by the court to work on a case-by-case basis. The Commission on Indigent Defense is the statewide organization responsible for Public Defenders. If you have additional questions regarding Public Defenders, the Commission's website has a set of useful FAQs.
How do I get jail time?
The judge gives jail time after a guilty plea or a trial. Judges have the choice to set sentences as they see fit within minimums and maximums established by state law. Judges base sentencing on the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, and other mitigating factors. Some offenses carry mandatory minimum and maximum sentences that leave the judge with little choice. The Sentence Sheet records the sentence and other important information about the final disposition of a case.
How do I get credit for time served?
South Carolina law requires that you are credited with time served in prison before sentencing, unless you were in prison serving a sentence for a different crime or you were in prison as an escapee from a different correctional institution. The Department of Corrections, not the judge, handles the calculation.
What is the disposition of my case?
Disposition refers to the final status of the case. It tells you how the case ended. For example, the sentence received by someone convicted of a crime is the final disposition of the case. If you are unsure of the status of your case, try a case records search. NOTE: Records from some counties are not available.
Is my case pending or ended?
If the case is pending, it is still open and unresolved. If ended, the case is closed and has a final disposition.
What does the status "ended" mean?
An ended case is one resolved by trial, plea deal, or dismissal of the charges. After indictment by a grand jury, the only way for a case to end without a trial or a plea deal is for the Solicitor to drop the charges or to "nol pros" (not prosecute) the case.
Can I speak with the judge about my case?
No. You cannot discuss your case with the judge outside of the courtroom. This rule prevents either side from gaining an unfair advantage.
To find an attorney who practices law in this area, please contact the South Carolina Bar's Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) at 1-800-868- 2284 (toll free). LRS offers a referral by location and type of law. The lawyers who sign up with LRS are in good standing with the South Carolina Bar and must maintain malpractice insurance coverage. The lawyers also agree to a 30-minute consultation for no more than $50. After the 30-minute consultation, the fees will be the lawyers' normal fees. Once you receive a referral, you will be expected to contact the lawyer by telephone to make an appointment.