CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Keep in mind that when law enforcement contacts you, whether it is because they believe you have information regarding a crime or else have committed one, it is imperative that you contact an attorney before answering questions or giving an interview. The South Carolina criminal defense attorneys at the Strom Law Firm are experienced in navigating criminal investigations and criminal cases and will advise you at each step.
THE INVESTIGATIVE PROCESS
Sometimes you may hear through others that an investigator with law enforcement wants to speak with you about a situation you may or may not know about or in which you have been involved. You MUST contact an attorney prior to engaging in any conversations with a law enforcement officer.
In other instances, law enforcement may reach out to you by phone or come by your home or place of work to ask you to speak with them. Again, you should not speak to any law enforcement officer without at least consulting with an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT GIVING A STATEMENT
Should I give a statement?
You should never give a verbal or written statement to law enforcement without consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney in South Carolina. Like when dealing with insurance companies after an accident, anything you say can be twisted and used against you. Law enforcement officers are specifically trained in pulling information out of you, promising they are there to help you, acting as though they are your friend and wanting to get to the truth. In reality, they want you to give a statement that could be used to prove you were at the scene, involved in the act, or know pertinent information about the crime. Law enforcement will use interrogation techniques to attempt to get a confession to use against you in court. Sometimes, law enforcement officers will already have a warrant for your arrest prior to contacting you. It is imperative you contact an attorney before meeting with any law enforcement officers.
How do I avoid giving a statement?
A law enforcement officer may contact you to “talk.” He or she may do this by showing up at your home or office or calling you on the phone to schedule a time to meet. It is essential that you not answer any questions or give a statement at that time. You can always tell the officer that the timing is not good for you, and you will call them back with a better date and time to meet. Make sure you obtain the officer’s name and number, so you or a lawyer are able to return their call. At that point, contact Pete Strom and the Strom Law Firm to walk you through this process.
What can a South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney do if I am being questioned or investigated?
An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to handle a law enforcement request for contact. The first step is to determine what exactly the officer is investigating and what role he or she believes you played. A South Carolina criminal defense lawyer will also try to determine the stage of the investigation — whether law enforcement just wants to ask questions to gather additional information during its investigation, or whether there is already a warrant for your arrest. Law enforcement officers do not have to relay this information to the attorney, but will usually provide some sort of direction as a courtesy. Once the attorney knows what stage the investigation is in, he or she will be better able to assist you through the investigative process. The attorney will act as a go-between to facilitate the communication between you and law enforcement.
ONCE THE INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETED
When a law enforcement agency has concluded its investigation, there may be a warrant for your arrest. Once an arrest warrant is issued, there is nothing that can be done to recall it. A qualified criminal defense attorney will be able to walk you through the process of turning yourself in, accepting service of the warrant, being booked into the local detention facility, and getting processed. Your attorney can also represent you at your bond hearing.
Once you have been arrested for a crime, you will be booked into the local detention center and formally charged. You will wait for a few hours before you can see the magistrate judge at the jail who will determine if a bond will be set. At the bond hearing, a magistrate does not consider evidence or make any decisions about the merits of the case. The judge considers two factors: (1) risk of flight and (2) danger to the community. The judge may ask about your education, employment, family, ties to the community, and criminal history to determine whether a bond should be set and, if so, what the amount should be. The judge can set a Personal Recognizance bond (PR bond) where you will not have to post money or property to secure your release from jail, but will sign yourself out with a promise to appear for all court dates. In other situations, a surety bond may be set where a certain amount must be paid before you can be released. In a few circumstances, a bond may be denied completely, and you would be required to stay in jail. Pete Strom and the South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm will work diligently to get the best possible bond for you in your case.
After you are formally charged with a crime and have bonded out of jail, you now have a pending criminal case against you. At the bond hearing, you will be given a court date. You must always appear for every scheduled court appearance or hearing that you are given. Failure to appear could result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. Representing yourself or going before a judge without the proper representation could have devastating consequences. You should always have an attorney present when you are required to appear in court for criminal charges.
TYPES OF COURTS:
There are many different courts that handle varying levels of criminal charges.
Federal Courts – federal courts handle charges brought for violations of federal law or for charges arising from conduct taking place on a military base. Many times, the investigations in these cases may span long periods of time before an arrest is made.
General Sessions Courts – General Sessions Courts handle charges brought for felony or misdemeanor violations of state law. General Session Court is where murder cases, felony DUI, serious drug cases, and other felonies and upper-level misdemeanors.
Magistrate and Municipal Courts – Magistrate and municipal courts handle traffic tickets and lower-level misdemeanors such as DUIs, Shoplifting, Public Disorderly Conduct, Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Public Drunkenness, Trespassing, and Simple Possession of Marijuana.
You are entitled to a preliminary hearing for any charges that are handled in General Sessions Courts. The purpose of these hearings is to determine whether your charge is supported by probable cause. At the preliminary hearing, you are not allowed to present a defense or speak. The investigating officer will testify under oath about what probable cause he or she had to make the arrest and charge. If your attorney has a motion, the judge will hear that motion and any response from the prosecution. At the close of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to dismiss the charge, remand it to a lower court or reduce the charge, or to send it on to General Sessions. The Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm will ask the right questions on cross-examination and present any appropriate motions to the judge at your preliminary hearing.
Sentencing is handled by the judge, subject to the range set by the legislature in the statute you’re charged with violating. If you plead guilty or you are found guilty at a trial, your sentence could include jail or prison time, fines, community service, or probation. The experienced and qualified South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney at the Strom Law Firm are excellent at presenting mitigating evidence at your sentencing to assist the judge in making the right sentencing decision.
While many cases are resolved outside of a trial, many proceed to a trial by jury or a judge. Depending on the charge and the court in which it is adjudicated, trials can last a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. Many attorneys may be hesitant to go to trial. At the Strom Law Firm, we do not shy away from trial. The South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm will work tirelessly to provide you with the best possible defense at trial.
CONTACT PETE STROM AND THE STROM LAW FIRM
Pete Strom and the other South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand what it takes to effectively handle a criminal case. Before finding yourself in an unfortunate situation with law enforcement, call an experienced South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney at the Strom Law Firm at (803) 252-4800 for a free consultation.