Gov. Henry McMaster on Sept. 26, 2022, previewed numerous public safety proposals that he will ask the General Assembly to consider during the 2023 legislative session starting in January.
The Governor’s Office said McMaster will propose sweeping bond and sentencing reform for violent criminals and repeat offenders.
In an effort to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and juveniles, the governor is also proposing strengthening criminal penalties for illegal gun possession to include graduated mandatory minimum felony sentences.
In addition, the governor will propose raising the bar on magistrate judge qualifications, while calling on the Senate to make their selection process more transparent and accountable.
“Law enforcement officers know who the repeat criminals are,” McMaster said. “They commit over 80 percent of the crimes. Where law enforcement needs our help is with stronger laws to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and juveniles, and with new laws to keep repeat violent criminals and career criminals behind bars and not out on bail. And we must ensure the public has confidence in who and how our magistrate judges are appointed.”
The governor worked collaboratively with Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to develop the proposals:
Close the Revolving Door for Violent Criminals
No bond for repeat violent criminals and career criminals.
Offenders convicted of a violent crime while out on bond must serve an additional five years in prison - on top of sentence received for previous crimes. No early release or parole.
Strengthen transparency and accountability by establishing minimum sentencing conditions and requirements for violent crimes and weapons offenses.
Enhance oversight of bail bondsmen, establish minimum standards for court-ordered GPS or electronic monitoring, and impose penalties on bondsmen who fail to maintain electronic monitoring or report violations of bond conditions to court.
Keep Illegal Guns Away from Criminals and Juveniles
Increase penalties for second and subsequent illegal gun possession/abuse offenses to felony offenses with enhanced penalties and mandatory minimum prison sentences. No bond. No early release or parole.
Add additional violent offenses to the list of violent crimes which, upon conviction, prohibit possession of a firearm for life.
Enforce statutory requirements mandating that confiscated firearms not be put to use within a law enforcement agency. They must either be sold to a federally licensed dealer or destroyed.
Magistrate Judges: Raise the Qualification Bar - Make the Process Transparent and Accountable
Magistrate judges must be required to be licensed attorneys in good standing with the Bar, certified to practice law in a courtroom, and they should be screened publicly by the state Senate prior to confirmation.
State Senators should be required to cast a public, recorded vote on each magistrate’s confirmation.
Joe Cunningham, McMaster’s opponent Nov. 8, says escalating violence in South Carolina is the Republican governor’s fault, according to the Post and Courier in Charleston. It said the Democrat’s solution is to elect judges by popular vote as most other states do.
South Carolina’s murder rate is the highest it has been in three decades, according to the Post and Courier.
The overall rate for all violent crimes has dropped by 45 percent in that span, though there has been an uptick since 2014, the Post and Courier reported, citing the latest report from the State Law Enforcement Division, which includes data through 2020.
“Gov. McMaster owns this crime issue," Cunningham said Aug. 20 in Orangeburg, according to the Post and Courier. "He’s appointed the judges who are letting violent offenders back on the streets.”