Criminal Defense Lawyers In Columbia, SC
Selecting An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer In Columbia
It is essential to seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer if you or someone you care about has been arrested and charged with a crime in Columbia, South Carolina. While you are facing a stressful circumstance, it is entirely possible to ease your anxiety and empower yourself with legal representation. A good criminal defense lawyer in Columbia will know how to get the best outcome for your case, whether that involves minimizing the charges, fighting the charges, or accepting a plea bargain.
Criminal Case Process
- Investigation: Most criminal defense cases begin with arrest, but some will begin with pre-arrest investigations. You may even be aware of this investigation before you are arrested. You should hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you find out that you are being investigated for criminal charges in South Carolina.
- Arrest: When someone is arrested, they should be read their Miranda Rights, put in handcuffs, and escorted to the police station to be booked for a crime. You will give fingerprints, take a mug shot, be inspected by medical staff, and then wait for a transfer to Bond Court (within 24 hours).
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
Your Miranda Rights will include the right to be silent and avoid incriminating yourself and the right to have an attorney present before questioning. As soon as you request a criminal defense lawyer, the police are not allowed to interrogate you further, until that criminal defense lawyer arrives. This is how the system ensures that police do not abuse their power. However, if you make a spontaneous admission of guilt, outside of interrogation, then this can still be used against you. If you are in a situation where your rights are violated, then your statements will be dismissed from evidence in your case.
When you are transferred to Bond Court for a bond hearing, you will face a Magistrate Judge to decide if you should be released while your charges are pending, whether bond should apply, and the value of that bond. The judge will make these decisions, based on evidence and comments from the defense attorney and prosecution attorney. This is an important part of your case, and you need to have a good criminal defense lawyer present.
Your lawyer will be able to speak on your behalf to get a bond, or deposit that must be paid for your conditional release from jail. This is paid to the court by yourself or by a bail bondsman, who will charge 10 to 15%. A bail bondsman can pay your bond, and be repaid when your obligations are fulfilled.
If you pay the bond yourself, then it will be returned to you when you show up in court. If you use a bail bondsman, then fail to show up for court, then the bail bondsman can only get his or her money back by finding you.
- You have a right to a preliminary hearing in a criminal case. Your criminal defense lawyer should recommend that you exercise this right within ten days of your bond hearing. This will make the prosecution prove probable cause before they can proceed with the charges. This means that you have a chance to contest your case before it goes further. The judge may decide to modify or even dismiss the charges.
- After the preliminary hearing, if your charges are still in place, then you may go to trial. However, you can also negotiate to resolve the case outside of the courtroom. Most criminal cases are actually resolved through plea bargain negotiations, rather than trial. You can usually get a lesser charge and punishment, in exchange for a guaranteed conviction for the prosecution, so nobody risks losing at trial.
- If you are unable to negotiate a plea bargain, then the case will go to trial. However, there are multiple steps before this. There will be initial hearings, pre-trial conferences, investigations, and discovery exchanges. It may be several months before the case goes to trial. When it does, it may be a bench trial with only a judge, or it may be a jury trial by a jury of your peers. Which is likely to produce a better outcome will depend on the circumstances of your case. If it is a General Sessions Court, there will be 12 jurors, and there will be six jurors for a magistrate or municipal case.
During the trial, each side presents their case to prove guilt or innocence. If you are found guilty, you can appeal to continue to fight to prove innocence. There will be a sentencing phase, and then an appeals phase.
- When you are found guilty, you will come to the sentencing phase, where your punishment will be decided by a judge, in accordance with the law.
- After sentencing, you still have the right to appeal your case. Your criminal defense attorney will be able to pursue the various avenues of appealing the conviction, and you will likely remain in jail during this process. Some cases do allow for release, pending appeal, though you may be confined to your home during this time.
Misdemeanors vs. Felonies
The two categories of criminal charges are misdemeanors and felonies, with misdemeanors being the less serious and harshly punished of the two.
Examples of misdemeanor charges are shoplifting, drunk driving, simple assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, possession of marijuana, vandalism, etc. Examples of felony charges are homicide, burglary, armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, serious assault, etc.
There are then further divisions within misdemeanors, Class A, Class B, and Class C, in South Carolina. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious and can be punished by three years in jail. Class C misdemeanors are the least serious and can be punished by one year in jail. Class B misdemeanors are in the middle, punishable by two years in jail.
It is essential to have a qualified Columbia, SC criminal defense lawyer on your side if you’ve been arrested (or are being investigated) for criminal charges. This will be the best way to ensure that you handle your case correctly, take all of the necessary steps, and get the best outcome.