Using Real Estate to Post Bond

Did you know that you can use real estate to post bond in South Carolina? This means that, instead of having to pay a cash bond to the Court or hiring a bail bondsman, you can pledge property that you own to the court. At the conclusion of the case, the pledge is released and you have effectively avoided the expense of a bondsman. The defendant can either pledge his or her own property, or you can pledge property that you own on behalf of someone else.

Why would someone be interested in this process?

In a case with a very substantial bond a bondsman's fee may be $10,000 or more. This money is kept as the bondsman's fee, even if the defendant reported to court as required. By pleading real estate you can avoid paying these fees, which can result in a significant savings.

But there are some limitations to the nature of the property used, namely that it:

  • Be located in the County that the case is pending in
  • Be free and clear (that is with no mortgages or other liens)
  • The property must have a tax appraised value of at least the amount of the bond

If your property doesn't exactly qualify for some reason, there may still be hope as long as there is still enough equity in the property to secure the bond. However, it will require getting a judge's approval and drafting specialized court orders. This will somewhat add onto the time frame and expense.

You'll need a lawyer to assist with this process as it is not something that most people can do on their own. Furthermore, the Court will require proof of a recent title search to guarantee to the Court that there are no mortgages or other liens. Getting everything done will take at least a few days under the best of circumstances – and there will still be some fees for the lawyer's help and the title abstractor. However, those fees can be significantly lower than those charged by a bail bondsman. Several years ago, I assisted a client in posting property to secure the release of his grandson – saving him over $20,000 from what a bondsman would have charged.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

The main benefit is the potential to save a significant amount of money by not hiring a bondsman. What are the drawbacks? First, that this procedure is only suitable for cases where the court has required a large bond. If the bond has been set at $25,000, there may not be any cost savings (so you shouldn't use this procedure for cases like DUI or CDV).

There is another big risk, which is that the person who pledges their property stands to lose it to the Court if the defendant fails to appear in court or fails to comply with any other terms of their bond. While a bondsman will send out a bounty hunter to bring in a wayward defendant before they lose their bond to the Court (a process called estreatment). There is no such help available for a private citizen who pledges their property. You'll want to think twice (or three or four times) before pledging property to help someone who you aren't 100% sure is reliable (such as someone who is facing enough prison time to run, has an active drug addiction, or is mentally unstable).

Learn more about posting real estate as bond by calling The Law Offices of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC today.

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