In case you missed it, Governor McMaster signed into law H.3532 last month. There are several key takeaways that will impact the criminal justice system in South Carolina.
Pursuant to § 17-50-270, an additional criminal offense was created which carries up to five (5) years in prison if a person commits a subsequent violent crime while out on bond or pretrial release order for a previous violent crime. For example, if you are out on bond for a violent crime and then subsequently falsely accused of a new violent crime, then you may face this additional charge as well now. In other words, the language in the statute does not even require a conviction of the subsequent violent crime to trigger this new offense.
Another important provision deals with full cash bonds. If a person is currently on bond or other pretrial release and is subsequently charged with a violent offense or any felony offense involving a firearm, then § 17-15-15 states the “bond must be set at the full United States currency cash bond to the exclusion of all other forms of bond whether the bond is posted by the defendant or with a bondsman.” If you are on bond or pretrial release for ANY previous offense and you subsequently get charged with a violent offense or any felony involving a firearm, then you would be subject to this provision. The offense you were originally on bond for does not even need to be violent or a felony involving a gun to cause this provision to kick in.
Additionally, a summary court judge can no longer set bond in situations where a person is out on bond for a violent offense OR a felony offense involving a firearm and then subsequently is charged with a violent offense or a felony offense involving a firearm. The law already divested summary courts of jurisdiction to set bond where a person was out on bond for a violent crime and then was accused of a new violent crime. However, now the firearm provision has been added. What this means from a practical standpoint is that the person facing this new provision would now have to wait longer than the usual 24 hours to actually have a bond hearing in front of a circuit court judge. Moreover, while some felonies involving a firearm are quite apparent, such as discharging a firearm into a dwelling, others may require bond judges to inquire further into the facts of the case to determine whether this new statute applies.
A final change worth noting that H.3532 brings to South Carolina applies to § 38-53-70, which now allows courts to issue a bench warrant where “a defendant violates the conditions of release on bond” as opposed to merely in situations where he or she failed to appear for a court proceeding to which he or she was summoned. The overarching goal of H.3532 is to reduce recidivism for repeat violent offenders and career criminals and keep illegal guns out the hands of criminals. However, the reality is that there are still some gray areas when these new changes that will likely increase bench warrants in uncertain situations as well as the number of defendants held in the detention center prior to trial and delays in bond hearings for individuals. That is why it is important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are arrested in South Carolina. We are available 24/7 to schedule a free consultation.