Strom Law Firm Columbia SC
No obligations & no credit card required

Civil Rights Attorneys: How An Attorney for Civil Rights Can Help Your Case

With more than twenty years of experience defending criminal cases throughout the state, our lawyers have encountered numerous questions–along with a few misconceptions–about the laws in our state. Here, we’ll explore a few of the most common questions, along with our best answers, to help guide you through the experience of being arrested or charged with a crime. 

If you’ve been arrested, had criminal charges filed against you, or are under investigation, a free consultation with our experienced defense attorneys is just a phone call away. Call 803-252-4800 today.

I didn’t do anything wrong, so why should I worry about talking with an investigator?

Even if you do not think that you have done anything illegal, it is never a good idea to speak with law enforcement without your attorney present. If you speak with an investigator, you run the risk that your words, or any statement you make, may be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or twisted. In a worst-case scenario, your words may end up leading to your arrest. 

People who are wrongfully convicted didn’t commit the crimes for which they were arrested and incarcerated. Many of those cases may begin with an interview with an investigator. Having your lawyer present during any questioning is the safest and surest method of protecting your rights under criminal law.

If you are contacted by law enforcement or even think that you may be under investigation, anything you do or say while talking to an investigator or any law enforcement official may be used against you in future criminal charges or proceedings. Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Strom Law for a free consultation to discuss your situation and the best way to proceed.

Do I have the right to contest charges?

You do, and understanding your right to contest charges is fundamental in navigating the criminal justice system. This right provides individuals the opportunity to challenge the accusations brought against them through legal means, such as a jury trial or other procedural avenues. 

Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney early in the legal process is crucial to fully grasp the implications of exercising this right. A skilled attorney can assess the strength of the prosecution’s case, identify potential legal defenses, and guide you on the most strategic course of action. 

Whether facing minor traffic offenses or more serious criminal charges, exercising your right to contest charges empowers you to present a robust defense, ensuring a fair and just legal process. At Strom Law, our criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to helping individuals understand and assert their rights throughout the legal proceedings. If you find yourself charged with a crime, don’t hesitate to seek a free consultation to explore your options and safeguard your rights.

Do I need to show up at my first and second appearances?

While it might seem like first and second appearances are not all that important, failure to appear can have serious consequences. Your first appearance is also sometimes called a ‘roll call;’ this is a procedural step in which an officer of the court asks basic questions and puts your case on the schedule. The purpose is to make sure you have representation (a defense attorney) and to make sure you will appear at your subsequent court dates.

At your second appearance, the court asks whether you wish to plead guilty to the charges or request a trial. Depending on your answer, the court puts your case on the plea schedule or the trial schedule. Remember to never take the decision regarding your plea lightly–it can have lasting consequences for your personal and professional life. An experienced defense attorney can ensure you have all possible information at your disposal before entering your plea.

Failure to appear at either your first or your second appearance will result in the issue of 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. If a criminal defendant fails to appear in court or leaves before being released by the prosecutor, the prosecutor may ask the Circuit Court Judge for a warrant for your arrest. 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 think a bench warrant has been issued against you, or if you are in jail on a bench warrant, you need an experienced 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?

The best move for your defense is to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest. This provides your attorney a sufficient amount of time to build your defense. 

If you are arrested and taken to jail, a bond hearing should be held within twenty-four hours of your arrest. Having representation as early as the bond hearing is very important. 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. 

If you or your loved one has been placed under arrest, it is important to the outcome of your case that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible.

If it’s just a petty offense or a misdemeanor, it’s not worth fighting. I’ll just plead guilty, right?

The decision to enter a guilty plea should not be made with haste. It is in your best interest to consult the advice of a criminal defense attorney before you make that decision. When you plead guilty, you give up any right to refute the charges against you. A guilty plea can have lasting consequences. Even if you are merely fined instead of receiving a prison sentence, a conviction on your record can have serious consequences in your life.

Some misdemeanors and felonies result in potentially losing your right to public housing, suspension of your driver’s license, potential loss of qualifying for certain education scholarships, the loss of your right to carry a firearm, and the loss of your right to vote. 

In certain cases, this means a lifetime registration on the sex offender registry. Custody or visitation with your children can also be impacted by certain convictions. Lastly, there are professional consequences that can ruin your livelihood, and even end your career.

A free consultation with a lawyer from Strom Law allows you to discuss the facts of your case. With our decades of experience, our attorneys can help you make the decision for your case and your future.

What Happens if I decide to plead guilty?

If you decide to plead guilty, you will attend a guilty plea hearing before a judge. After your plea is entered, the judge will then make a determination on your punishment.

Judges have discretion to sentence you within the range set by the applicable statute. The sentence you receive will be based on the circumstances surrounding your crime, your criminal record, and other factors. If a crime has a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge isn’t able to give you a sentence below that minimum.

State Sentencing

In South Carolina State Court, judges have discretion to sentence within a statutory range set by the legislature.

Possible punishments include:

  • A time-served sentence
  • A monetary fine
  • Probation
  • Completion of rehabilitation/education programs in lieu of a sentence
  • Home-detention or house arrest
  • Active incarceration

Given the possible range of punishments, 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 after your guilty plea, you may appeal within ten days. Failure to file a notice of intent to appeal within ten days could result in the loss of your right to a direct appeal.

Do I need a lawyer if I decide to plead guilty?

Even if you decide to plead guilty, having a lawyer working on your behalf can mean the difference between heavy sentencing and lesser punishments. When you plead guilty without negotiating a plea bargain, you are pleading to the offense charged.

Your lawyer can negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf, which can allow you to plead to a lesser offense, exchange your plea for a reduced sentence, or take other actions to reduce your punishment. An experienced lawyer may be able to look at the state’s case against you and negotiate an agreement. 

Your lawyer will also be able to advise you on the details of your plea agreement, including the punishments you may face, so you have all the necessary information in advance of making your decision.

Are You Facing Charges in South Carolina?

Based in Columbia, South Carolina, Strom Law 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 at Strom Law provide a free consultation for these matters and have the experience you need to protect your rights and guide you through the entire legal process. Call 803-252-4800 today to learn how we can help!