On Friday, January 20, 2017, representatives from Richland County and the City of Columbia will be sponsoring Operation Clean Slate. This is a program designed to encourage individuals with outstanding arrest warrants to turn themselves in. Magistrate and Municipal judges will be on hand to conduct bond hearings for eligible participants.
The law enforcement press releases make it sound like this is a really easy way to resolve charges. And for many defendants this can be a great forum to try to work towards resolving their criminal charges. However, there are still a few things that you should be aware of before you participate.
Judges will be available to set bond on most Richland County and City of Columbia charges. Operation Clean Slate does not cover judges from other areas, such as Lexington or Greenville. If you have warrants from outside of the covered area then you will be detained on that hold.
Although the participating judges will be taking into consideration the fact that individuals are turning themselves in, and the general theme is to try to be as reasonable as possible when setting bonds, there are no guarantees of getting a personal recognizance bond. That means that you should be prepared to pay for a bond if necessary, either by posting money with the court or hiring a bail bondsman. Defendants will not be released until they post any required bond.
Defendants who have bench warrants for failure to appear in court will not be eligible to have a bond set. Instead they will be detained until such time as the regular court lifts the bench warrant (which may take weeks or months if in General Sessions). If you have a failure to appear bench warrant you should try to contact your public defender or attorney for instructions on how to best proceed.
Our recommendation is that individuals with pending warrants in Richland County or the City of Columbia do need to make arrangements to turn themselves in. Operation Clean Slate can be a good way to do so, with a quicker process than is normal when processed by the jail, and judges likely setting lower bonds than on average. If you have a pending warrant and questions about turning yourself in you are invited to contact our office for a free consultation. Remember, you should never make a statement to the police or answer questions about any criminal matters until you first meet with a lawyer and they advise you to do so.