S.C. lawmakers push bond reform to address ‘revolving door’

South Carolina State House
South Carolina State House(Contributed)
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 6:02 PM EST
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COLUMBIA. S.C. (WIS) - Advancing to the House floor for debate is a bill designed to crack down on offenders who commit violent crimes while out on bond in South Carolina.

The bill has big support, with its lead sponsor being the speaker of the House.

It addresses a public safety problem that lawmakers say they can’t let go on any longer.

“The intent of this bill is to take bad people and lock them up so they cannot do it again. We’re talking about violent offenders,” said Rep. Chris Wooten, R-Lexington.

Bond reform is a top public safety priority for leaders in both chambers of the State House this year.

Supporters say this bill makes it harder for people who commit violent crimes to get out on bond – and to deter people who do get out from committing more crimes.

“We’ve got a revolving door, and people of all sides are trying to figure out the best way that we can do this,” said GOP Rep. Weston Newton, Judiciary Committee chairman.

Under the bill, people who commit a violent crime while out on bond for another violent offense would automatically have that initial bond revoked.

Then a new bond hearing would have to be held in circuit court within 14 days.

If they’re granted bond on that second offense, they’d have to pay it in full in cash.

If the person is ultimately convicted of that subsequent violent crime – the one committed while out on bond — they’d have a mandatory additional five years tacked onto their prison sentence, although that could be served concurrently with their time for the offense itself.

But some lawmakers argued this would be unfair and potentially unconstitutional – to add on that time for someone who was not found guilty of that initial charge – the one for which they were out on bond in the first place.

“We talk about justice in this place. This is not justice. This is taking somebody’s life,” said Rep. Case Brittain, R-Horry.

Others say state law isn’t the issue here because solicitors already have the ability to file a motion to revoke bond when it’s been violated.

“Clearly, state law as it sits today has a remedy that I do not believe is being followed,” said Rep. Seth Rose, D-Richland.

With the Judiciary Committee voting 16-7 to advance the bill, it will next head to the House floor to await a debate.