Frequently Asked South Carolina Criminal Defense Questions
I didn’t do anything wrong, so why should I worry about talking with an investigator?
Despite what you may think, and even if you do not think that you have done anything illegal, it is never a good idea to speak with law enforcement without an attorney. If you are contacted by law enforcement or even think that you may be under investigation, anything you do or say may be used against you in future criminal charges and/or proceedings. Contacting an attorney prior to any questioning is the safest route to protect your rights.
The information included on your ticket or warrant will usually contain:
- your charge
- your first court date
- your bond (if any)
You should bring this documentation with you when you meet with the attorney.
Why do I need to show up at my first and second appearances if I won’t see a judge?
Any failure to appear could result in a bench warrant for your arrest. While your first and second appearances may be somewhat procedural, you are required to attend. If you fail to appear, the judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
What is a bench warrant?
A bench warrant can be executed by a judge for your failure to appear in court, failure to pay a fine, or comply with a court’s payment plan. This bench warrant is a stand alone charge and is in addition to your original charges. In other words, if a bench warrant is issued, and you are pulled over for a simple traffic violation in that county, the officer may arrest you. If you are in jail on a bench warrant, or think a bench warrant has been issued against you, you need an experienced South Carolina Criminal Defense attorney to guide you through the complicated process of dealing with your original charges and any bench warrants.
Can’t I wait to hire an attorney until after my second appearance?
In order to provide your attorney a sufficient amount of time to build your defense, you should hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest. If you are arrested and taken to jail, a bond hearing should be held within 24 hours of your arrest and having representation begin, as early as the bond hearing, becomes very important. If you or your loved one has been placed under arrest, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. Additionally, if you are given a ticket with a date to appear in court, it is also extremely important that you contact an attorney as early as possible in order to give them time to prepare for your upcoming court date.
It’s not worth fighting. I’ll just plead guilty, right?
If you are arrested in South Carolina and your criminal charge is pending in General Sessions Court or Magistrate’s Court, you have the option to plead guilty or not guilty.
The decision to enter a guilty plea should not be made with haste, it is always best to consult the advice of a criminal defense attorney because when pleading guilty you give up any right to refute the charges against you. A guilty plea can have lasting consequences beyond a fine or prison sentence. Conviction of some misdemeanors and felonies result in potentially losing your right to public housing, suspension of your driver’s license, potential loss of qualifying for education scholarships like the HOPE and LIFE scholarships, the loss of your right to carry a firearm or vote, and could mean a lifetime registration on the sex offender registry. Custody or visitation with your children can also be impacted by certain convictions, as well as professional consequences that can ruin your livelihood and end your career.
What Happens if I decide to plead guilty?
If you decide to plead guilty after receiving the advice of an attorney, you will attend a guilty plea hearing before a judge who is assigned to your case. After your plea is entered the judge will then make a determination on your punishment.
In South Carolina State Court, Judges have discretion to sentence within statutory range set by legislatures.
Possible punishments include:
- a time-served sentence,
- a monetary fine,
- completion of rehabilitation/education programs in lieu of sentence,
- home-detention or house arrest, and
- active incarceration
Given the possible range of sentences it is extremely important that you consult a criminal defense attorney so that you are aware of all of the possible consequences of a crime before you decide how to plead in your case.
If you are not satisfied with the sentence imposed in your case, you may appeal the decision within 10 days after the completion of your case. Failure to file within ten days, except in very limited circumstances, will cause you to lose your appellate rights.
Charged in South Carolina?
The Strom Law Firm encourages all individuals who are charged with even minor traffic or criminal offenses to seek a free consultation with an attorney before giving up valuable rights such as the right to contest the charge by jury trial or otherwise. The South Carolina criminal defense lawyers with Strom Law Firm provide a free consultation for these matters and have the experience you need to protect your rights and guide you through the legal process. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.