State Supreme Court lists directives regarding trials, hearings during coronavirus pandemic

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Supreme Court has issued several directives regarding jury trials, hearings, and other legal proceedings as part of the effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

The State Supreme Court has now postponed all jury trials, but non-jury trials and hearings will continue to be held. However, attorneys, their clients, and necessary witnesses will only be allowed to appear at these proceedings.

Roll calls and traffic court have been canceled until further notice. Also, anyone who has been charged with a non-capital crime will be ordered released pending a trial on their own recognizance without surety. The only way a person is not released is if they post an unreasonable danger to the community or if the accused is an extreme flight risk.

Courthouses should remain to allow the acceptance of filings and payments, for emergency hearings, for the transmission of necessary information to SLED and/or NCIC, and for compliance with the Financial Accounting Order. However, that is only if it is deemed necessary to curtail operations beyond the scope of what has been ordered.

Bond hearings should be held at least once a day, the State Supreme Court ordered. The court will continue conducting probable cause determinations if a defendant is arrested and jailed on a Uniform Traffic Ticket. Bond courts will also continue to unseal bench warrants or inform defendants of their right to counsel and new court dates. Bond courts will also continue to vacate bench warrants as well. At this time, bond courts will continue to uphold victim’s rights as a victim advocate or notifier must be available for bond hearings.

Court dates may be rescheduled. The S.C. Judicial Branch also said hearings that can be held by video may be held remotely with telephonic hearings being a last resort.

Counties or municipalities where the Chief Magistrate may appoint magistrates to serve as municipal judges should do so if the current municipal judge isn’t able to hold court.

If a magistrate court is temporarily closed, signs should be posted to tell citizens where the nearest magistrate court is within the county where payments and filings can be submitted.

Courts must also maintain a 24-hour judge on-call schedule and provide it to jails and law enforcement. These schedules may be amended as needed.

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