What Happens at a Bond Hearing?

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After two days of hearings that included testimony from Walter Scott’s mother and brother as well as a 153-page motion containing performance reviews and a psychiatric evaluation for North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, who is charged with murdering Scott, the judge deciding whether to grant Slager bond has yet to make a ruling.

Although Judge Clifton Newman said today he will make a decision “as expeditiously as possible,” the length of the hearings and the lack of a definitive answer have left many wondering what is going on. What normally happens at a bond hearing? And why is this one different?

Bond Timing

Bail proceedings determine an amount of money a criminal defendant must pay to secure his or her release until trial. Normally, a bail or bond hearing is conducted within days of a defendant’s arrest.

For common or lesser crimes, the bail amount might be set automatically, and a defendant notified of his or her bond amount immediately after arrest. Even in serious cases, there are Constitutional limits on how long after an arrest authorities can wait until conducting a bond hearing.

Bond Proceedings

During a bond hearing, a judge or magistrate will consider several factors in setting bail, including standard bond schedules, the seriousness of the crime, and the defendant’s criminal history. Both prosecutors and the defense are allowed to offer evidence and testimony regarding the defendant’s ties to the community, his or her risk to public safety, and the risk that the defendant will flee or otherwise fail to attend his or her trial or pre-trial proceedings.

Bond hearings can take minutes or hours, but rarely do they last more than a day and even rarer are the cases where a judge delays his or her bond decision.

Bond in This Case

Slager was charged with murder and arrested on April 7. His bond hearing began yesterday, with his defense attorneys filing 150 pages of documents in advance of the hearing and providing previews of evidence they say will exonerate their client.

Prosecutors countered with testimony from Scott’s family and video of the shooting, which allegedly shows Slager dropping a Taser near Scott’s body and placing “handcuffs on a dying or dead man.”

Slager has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest and will remain in jail until the judge rules on his bond amount.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can answer all of your questions about bail and bond proceedings.