4701 Oleander Drive, Suite A
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Most people know that, if you do not appear in court, you may lose any bond that you posted when you were released.
But what happens if a SC bondsman secures your release and then you do not appear in court? What if you do appear in court but did not comply with all the conditions of your bond?
A SC Supreme Court decision issued last week held that a SC bondsman can be required to pay up to the full amount of a defendant’s bond if the defendant 1) fails to appear for court or 2) does not comply with the conditions of their bond.
When you are arrested for any criminal offense in South Carolina, one of the first things that will happen is a bond hearing. There are several possibilities for how your bond may be set by the court.
Many people are released on their own recognizance with what is called a “PR bond,” or personal recognizance bond in South Carolina. This means that they do not have to pay money to the court or to a bondsman to secure their release, but they will be responsible to pay the amount of their bond if they fail to appear on their court date.
In some cases, bond is denied. Although every person in SC has a constitutional right to a personal recognizance bond, this is balanced by the court’s need to 1) secure the defendant’s appearance in court and 2) protect the community. In some cases involving serious violent crimes or repeat offenses, the Court will deny bond although the defendant can later ask a circuit court judge to reconsider.
In some cases, a defendant or their family will be allowed to post 10% of their bond amount with the clerk of court which will be returned to them at the conclusion of their case.
In serious cases, the Court will set what is called a surety bond which requires a bondsman to secure your release. The bondsman charges a non-refundable fee and then pledges to pay the court if their client does not appear for their court date.
In exchange for a fee, bondsmen secure a person’s release from jail pending the disposition of their case. If their client does not appear for court, it is the bondsman’s responsibility to take them into custody and deliver them to the jail in which case the bondsman may be able to retain all or part of their surety that was pledged for the client’s release.
As State v. Mitchell demonstrates, a bondsman is on the hook for more than just your appearance in court. The Court held that, even though the defendant appeared in court, the bondsman was liable for the defendant’s failure to comply with the condition of his bond:
We hold that the circuit court may consider the willfulness of a bondsperson’s actions, in addition to the willfulness of a defendant’s actions, when determining whether, and to what extent, to remit a bond forfeiture.
The defendant was released on a $150,000 bond secured by a bondsman, but the prosecutor later moved to revoke his bond based on multiple violations of the electronic monitoring and home arrest conditions of his bond.
Robinson, who was responsible for the electronic monitoring, informed Jenkins, the bondsman, that the defendant was not complying with his electronic monitoring, it was obvious that the defendant was staying out all night, and that Jenkins needed to take the defendant into custody.
Robinson testified he advised Jenkins that it appeared Mitchell was “out there doing drug transactions.” Robinson testified that Jenkins refused to pick Mitchell up and responded, “well, that’s how he makes a living.” Jenkins denied telling Robinson that she knew Mitchell made money dealing drugs.
The Court revoked the defendant’s bond. Based on what the Court held were willful violations of the bondsman’s obligation to ensure that the defendant was complying with the conditions of the bond, the Court then “estreated” one half of the defendant’s bond amount requiring the bondsman to pay $75,000 to the court, and the SC Supreme Court affirmed the estreatment.
If you have been arrested in the Myrtle Beach or Rock Hill, SC areas, your criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates can help you to get a reasonable bond set and, in most cases, to get out of jail while you wait for your trial.
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