South Carolina legislators are patting themselves on the back for voting 96-0 on the issue of bond reform. The bill in question, S 19, has been highly touted as a cure all when it comes to revoking the bonds of repeat offenders. It is not.
The changes to 17-15-55 actually change very little. Over the last two years CTL has featured many criminals who are free on multiple bonds and continue to re-offend for years while awaiting trial. The new law only applies to those who commit crimes classified as “violent crimes” by South Carolina Section 16-1-60.
Let’s see what was added to Section 17-15-55 that your legislators are so proud of.
“(C) If a person commits a violent crime, as defined in Section 16-1-60, which was committed when the person was already out on bond for a previous violent crime and the subsequent violent crime did not arise out of the same series of events as the previous violent crime, then the bond hearing for the subsequent violent crime must be held in the circuit court within thirty days. If the court finds that certain conditions of release on bond will ensure that the person is unlikely to flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community and the person will abide by the terms of release on bond, the judge shall consider bond in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and set or amend bond accordingly. If the court finds no such conditions will ensure that the person is unlikely to flee or not pose a danger to the community, the court shall not set a bond for the instant offense and must revoke all previously set bonds.”
In other words, if a violent offender on bond commits another violent crime he gets a bond hearing. Nothing new. At that bond hearing it is up to a judge to decide whether to grant bond. Nothing new. It is also up to a judge to decide whether or not to revoke the bond for the previous violent crime. Nothing new.
It seems the only real change here is it doesn’t require a motion for bond revocation from the solicitor’s office.
“(D) If a person commits a violent crime, as defined in Section 16-1-60, which was committed when the person was already out on bond for a previous violent crime and the subsequent violent crime did not arise out of the same series of events as the previous violent crime, then the jail, prison, or corrections facility where the person is housed must transmit notice of the second arrest, implicating subsection (C), to the solicitor of the circuit in which the crime was committed and the administrative chief judge of the circuit in which the crime was committed. The prosecuting agency must notify any victims of the initial or subsequent crimes pursuant to Chapter 3, Title 16 of any bond hearings.
The only thing new in all of this mumbo-jumbo is the requirement to notify the previous victim of the latest arrest. After that the only “changes” to existing law are a list of items for judges to consider when granting or revoking bail. They are not changes because judges use all of those same guidelines already. Don’t take our word for it, go read it yourself.
The only solid provision the bill had when first proposed was a mandatory sentence for those convicted of committing another violent offense while out on bond and making it consecutive to any other sentence imposed. That provision was stripped out early in the process.
The next time you run into one of your elected representatives, ask him or her to explain exactly what is different now. And don’t stand for any BS.