Articles on South Carolina Law

10 Common Questions About House Arrest in SC

by | Aug 18, 2017 | Bonds & Bond Hearings, Criminal Defense

There may be a great number of questions swimming around in your head ever since the possibility of being put on house arrest entered your world.

What happens to my job?

How am I going to be able to support my family?

Do I have to drop out of school?

What if I need to run to the grocery store?

Does it really mean I won’t be able to leave my house EVER?

For some, house arrest is the best alternative to a bad situation. For others, it is much harsher than they had ever dreamed of. With the help of a criminal defense attorney you don’t have to lose it all and be chained to your home just because you are on house arrest.

Keep reading to find out the answers to questions I hear frequently about house arrest in South Carolina.

Common Questions & Answers About House Arrest

1. What does “house arrest” mean?

House arrest can be used when someone accused of a crime is released from jail on bond, while awaiting their trial and/or court dates. Someone on house arrest is confined to their residence rather than being confined in jail or juvenile detention.

2. Is house arrest considered incarceration?

Technically, yes, house arrest can be a form of incarceration as the person’s freedom to come and go as they please is limited. Often house arrest requires strict parameters and monitoring. House arrest isn’t an “easy” way out. There are strict rules you must follow or face being sent to jail for violating the terms of your house arrest. The terms of the house arrest are determined by the Judge.

Some example of terms of house arrest may include: a curfew of 8 pm, may only travel to school, work, lawyer or house or worship, may be subject to random drug and/or alcohol screens, may not be within a certain range of the alleged victim’s residence, etc.

3. How does house arrest work?

There are two main scenarios of how you can be put on house arrest:

  1. Granted as a condition of being let out of jail on bond after their arrest but before their trial
  2. Sentenced as punishment at sentencing hearing after being found guilty at a trial or after pleading guilty

An electronic monitoring device is a device that is worn around the ankle of the defendant, also known as an ankle bracelet. Some types work by satellite monitoring and some work by GPS monitoring. Typically, the cost of GPS monitoring is more than Satellite monitoring. Different bond companies offer different types of monitoring. Offender Management is a common company used in South Carolina. The GPS or Satellite monitoring monitors your movement and alerts the bonding company if you go outside of the allowed location

4. What are the rules of house arrest?

The terms of house arrest are set by the Judge who is presiding over the hearing.

Here are some examples of house arrest conditions:

  • Curfews – must be home before 7:00 pm
  • Random Drug/Alcohol testing
  • Meetings with your probation officer
  • If allowed to attend work, school, your house of worship or visit with your attorney, you must go straight there and straight back; you are not allowed to make stops along the way.
  • If there is an alleged victim in the case, a judge can order you to avoid being within so many feet of the victim’s residence or have no contact with the victim whatsoever.

5. What is house arrest like?

House arrest offers many of the freedoms that being incarcerated does not. House arrest may allow someone to go to school, work, doctor’s appointments, church activities, meetings with their lawyers, counseling, attend inpatient or outpatient rehab, etc.

If you do not have permission from a Judge to leave your home for some of the exceptions noted above, you are looking at spending a lot of time at home. Court orders are very serious and should be followed.

It all really depends on the conditions that the judge orders in your particular case.

6. How much does house arrest cost?

If you are ordered to be on house arrest with no ankle monitor, the cost is generally $0. However, if you are ordered to be on house arrest and GPS or Satellite monitoring, the costs of house arrest vary. Another factor is whatever payment agreement/arrangements you and the bond company work out. Most bond companies allow weekly fees and you pay the fees one week in advance. The Defendant/person accused of the crime is responsible for paying for the use of the ankle bracelet (some exceptions may apply for people under the age of 16 who are charged as juveniles).

You must pay your ankle monitoring fees and follow all of the terms of your house arrest or you will face being put in jail. Once you “mess up” on house arrest (i.e. fail a drug test, remove the monitor from your ankle, or violate the terms of house arrest), you may lose that privilege and face being put in jail until your case is disposed of. On the other hand, if you do well on house arrest and have no violations, your attorney may be able to use this to your advantage in their discussions with the judge and/or prosecutor.

7. How can I get house arrest?

Your attorney may be able to assist you in getting the original terms of your bond changed to allow you to be on house arrest. Your attorney would file a motion with the court, the motion would be heard by a judge, and the judge would determine if you are a candidate for house arrest.

There is no guarantee that you will be granted/ordered house arrest instead of serving jail time. Being on house arrest is a privilege and not a right. You should not expect to be on house arrest.

There are some things that your lawyer can argue that can give you a better chance of being on house arrest, such as:

  • No history of violence
  • No history of missing a court date
  • Juvenile offenders (under the age of 16 and not being charged as an adult)
  • No long history of committing criminal offenses
  • Steady employment
  • Ties to the community (such as owning your home, living in the community for many years, family support in the community)
  • The crime you are being charged with/convicted of is not serious or violent
  • If there is an alleged victim in the case, that person has no objection or no opinion as to you being on house arrest
  • Serious medical conditions

8. Can you get house arrest for a felony?

It is possible, depending on the facts and circumstances of your individual case. There is no law in SC prohibiting house arrest for felony convictions; but be aware that this would be the exception and not the norm. Violent felonies are not likely to be granted house arrest.

9. Does house arrest count as time served?

It depends on the facts and circumstances of your case, but your lawyer can certainly argue that you receive full credit for time served under monitored house arrest pre-trial. The more days you have without violations on house arrest, the better it will be for your case.

I have had clients that were on GPS monitoring for a period of time, done well, and then they were able to spend the rest of their pre trial time on bond without house arrest. However, please note that you are subject to all provisions of house arrest unless and until a judge modifies those terms. You cannot unilaterally decide to modify the terms of your house arrest without court approval.

10. What are house arrest bracelets?

House arrest bracelets, also known as ankle bracelets, are secure monitoring devices (typically GPS or Satellite) that attach to the person’s ankle, and monitor their physical movement. It is similar to a GPS on your phone that you can track on your computer, but you should assume with much more sophistication (i.e. precision).

The bracelets track your movement through GPS, satellite radio frequencies. The bondsman or bond company should be able to provide a printout of your movement for the court if asked to do so. So you want to make sure you are always following the terms of your house arrest.

Your ankle monitor may have certain areas programmed into it that you are allowed to move freely in, but not outside the parameters of. Your bondsman presumably be notified if you leave your permitted area.

You are prohibited from tampering with the device or trying to remove it. Some devices are not completely waterproof. Check with your provider to find out. I have had people’s ankle monitors interfere with sweat. If there are any questions about what happened to your ankle monitor, assume you will be 100% responsible and will face the consequences. Since being on house arrest is a privilege and not a right, judges may not hesitate to take this privilege from you if their orders are not followed exactly as stated.

Have questions about house arrest in South Carolina?

Do you think you are a good candidate for house arrest? Contact Susan Williams to find out if your bond can be modified to allow house arrest. She can listen to your circumstances and advise you.

Are you or someone you know facing the possibility of house arrest in Colleton, Berkeley, Beaufort, Charleston, Hampton, Jasper or Dorchester County? Contact Susan Williams for more information on house arrest.

Call us at 843-607-9800 for a free consultation or complete our online form, so we can get in touch with you.

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