Bail refers to the release from custody of an accused before trial. The South Carolina Constitution guarantees that all persons accused of a crime are entitled to bail pending trial, except in capital cases or offenses punishable by life imprisonment. The Constitution also provides that excessive bail cannot be charged. No judge can set bail at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated to insure the presence of the accused at trial. See Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 72 S.Ct. 1, 96 L.Ed.3 (1961).
In South Carolina, the overwhelming majority of bonds are set by the Summary Courts. Summary Courts are the Magistrate Courts and the Municipal Courts.
Bonds are set by Spartanburg County Magistrates a number of times each day, every day of the year, including holidays. In most cases, the bond proceeding takes place in the Magistrate Court Offices at the Spartanburg County Detention Center. The terms "arraignment" and "bond proceeding" are used interchangeably. Two things are usually accomplished in this proceeding; First, the defendant is advised of the nature of the charges and advised of the rights afforded to him by the law. Second, a bond is set by the judge.
If a defendant is charged with a capitol offense, or one which might be punishable by life imprisonment, the magistrate, by law, cannot set the bond. It must by set by a Circuit Court Judge. Also, the magistrate might deny bond in certain cases involving violent crimes.
Defendants are not required to enter a plea at the bond proceeding.
Bond proceedings are governed by a number of statutes and an order from the chief justice, with which every magistrate must comply. The laws and rules governing bail procedures in South Carolina are detailed in the South Carolina Bench Book for Magistrates and Municipal Court Judges, Criminal Chapter, Section E. (Links to the Bench Book are directed to the S.C. Judicial Department website.) The law requires that a judge consider eight factors in determining the amount and type of bond to be set in any particular case:
Any person charged with a non-capital offense is entitled to be released on a personal recognizance bond, without surety, unless the court determines in its discretion that such a release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required, or unreasonable danger to the community will result.
A personal recognizance bond is posted by the accused executing Bond Form I, in which he acknowledges indebtedness to the state which would become absolute upon his failure to comply with the conditions of the bond.
Bond hearings are usually conducted by magistrates every day at the Spartanburg County Detention Facility at 11:00 a.m., 6:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m., midnight, and thereafter as needed. Victims of crimes, when it is requested, are informed of bond proceedings and the release of defendants. Victims are entitled to attend bond hearings and/or advise the magistrate of problems they anticipate encountering if a defendant is released on bond. Sections 16-3-1505 through 16-3-1565 of the South Carolina Code of Laws (Supp. 1998) contain the laws concerning victims' rights. For further information concerning victims' and witnesses' rights as they relate to the Summary Courts, see Section D in the Criminal Chapter of the Bench Book.
Anyone can now sign up anonymously to receive notifications if a certain inmate is released or escaped through the Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification (SAVIN) system.
If the court determines, in its discretion, that a personal recognizance bond will not reasonably assure the appearance of the accused, or that an unreasonable danger to the community will result, a surety bond may be required. Additionally, conditions and restrictions on this bond can be set by the judge. A surety is indebted to the state in the amount of the bond if the accused fails to appear at any court proceeding or otherwise violates the terms of the bond. A surety bond may be executed, using Bond Form II, in several different ways: