Honest Criminal Defense Law Answers From Your South Carolina Lawyer
When you’re faced with a major life event, you’re filled with questions and uncertainty. Get the straight answers you’re looking for from a South Carolina attorney.
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What’s the difference between Stand Your Ground and self-defense?
Basically, South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law gives added protection to defend yourself in certain places. In particular, here are three factors that are always important to a criminal defense based on this law:
- Added protection. If you qualify, you are immune from prosecution, meaning your case is dismissed. You do have to prove self-defense, but you don’t have to prove the fourth factor of self-defense, the duty to retreat if possible.
- Places. Your case must involve a residence, business, or occupied vehicle.
- Proof. You have to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not.
In contrast, you can use self-defense anywhere else. It’s tougher to prove, though, because:
- Less protection. The law doesn’t allow for dismissal. It’s a trial defense used to get an acquittal. You’ve got to show all four factors of self-defense, including the attempt to retreat or the inability to do so.
- Proof. To convict you at trial, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt at least one element of self-defense doesn’t exist.
Don’t Risk Losing Your Legal Rights Without a Fight
If you’re wondering about Stand Your Ground or self-defense, you can’t afford anything but a criminal defense lawyer you trust. Your future’s on the line, and the State wants to take it. An injured victim or the victim’s family may be pushing hard for it, with the willing help of the police. Don’t let your side get drowned out. Call us at 888.230.1841 to start getting your voice heard.
How do you get charged with assault and battery based on the other person’s injuries?
The degree of your assault charge can be determined by the complainant’s injury severity as defined by South Carolina Code §16-3-600(A). Here are the legal definitions:
Great Bodily Injury
This can be part of an assault and battery high and aggravated (ABHAN) or assault and battery first degree charge. It means an injury causing:
- A substantial risk of death, or
- Serious permanent disfigurement, or
- Protracted loss or impairment of a body part or organ.
This type injury is often involved in shootings, stabbings, and extremely severe beatings.
Moderate Bodily Injury
This can be part of assault and battery second degree. It means an injury:
- Involving prolonged unconsciousness, or
- Causing temporary or moderate disfigurement, or
- Causing temporary loss of function of a body part or organ, or
- Requiring local or general anesthesia, or
- Resulting in a fracture or dislocation.
It specifically excludes minor injuries that don’t usually require extensive medical care, like cuts and scratches, bruises, and even burns.
Your Case Outcome Isn’t Set in Stone
These definitions don’t have to be the final word on whether you even get convicted, or whether you have to take the full rap. As regrettable as it is, how bad the complainant got hurt doesn’t legally matter if you’ve got a defense, like self-defense. Even if you have no defense, that’s all the more reason to seek a talented criminal defense attorney to help protect you from getting locked up.
And remember, you might have defenses you don’t know, as a sharp defense attorney might find loopholes in these definitions to reduce the charge, or he may just negotiate a better deal for you.
If you’ve got questions about the injuries in your assault and battery case, or any other questions, fill out our Get Help Now form to get them answered.
How can I be charged with drug distribution or trafficking if there’s no proof I’m a dealer or ever sold drugs?
Shockingly, in South Carolina, you can be convicted of drug “distribution” or even “trafficking” charges just due to the weight of drugs you’re caught with.
Basically, the law assumes you are a dealer, even if you’re not. It’s really kind of alarming, especially since it seems to defeat two bedrocks of our justice system—the presumption of innocence and the requirement the state prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is where getting tough on crime just gets tough on what our country got founded on.
But it’s the law, and we’re stuck with it. Here’s how it can work.
What You Possess May Create a Presumption You’re Dealing
For example, you can be charged with:
- Possession with intent to distribute marijuana, if you got caught with more than one ounce.
- Cocaine trafficking, if you got caught with more than 10 grams.
It gets worse. You can actually be charged with drug distribution for LESS THAN the required amounts if you’re caught with items associated with the drug trade, like digital scales, multiple baggies, and other paraphernalia.
If you’re charged with a drug crime, you may literally be facing punishment for a crime you had no intent to commit. Your luck’s run out. You need a skilled professional to help.
Contact one of our experienced drug defense attorneys to start plotting your defense today. Even if you’re guilty, you’ve still got justified hope a talented drug defense lawyer can preserve your future and your freedom. And a seasoned criminal defense lawyer may be able to find defenses you didn’t even know about.
Start a live chat right now where you are so we can answer your questions and start protecting you today.
How do police get a search warrant?
Believe it or not, police don’t issue search warrants. Judges do. In South Carolina, search warrants are usually issued by magistrates. These important judges also handle traffic tickets and lower-level criminal cases like simple assault, plus civil cases involving a limited amount of money.
Here’s how it works, or how it’s supposed to.
The United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment allows search warrants only if supported by probable cause. South Carolina law requires the police to provide probable cause in an affidavit, a sworn statement. The affidavit can be supplemented by sworn testimony before the issuing judge.
The judge determines probable cause based on whether the affidavit proves a “fair probability” that evidence of a crime will be found in the place to be searched. At a minimum, the affidavit must reasonably describe all of these:
- The place to be searched. This must be described very precisely.
- A general idea of what evidence the police expect to find there, beyond just saying “evidence of a crime”—like “digital scales, bookkeeping records related to illegal drug transactions, and illegal drugs including but not limited to marijuana and cocaine or its derivatives.”
- The reason police expect to find the evidence there. And that reason must clearly tie the place to recent criminal activity, or the warrant will not be valid.
What to Do If Your Home or Vehicle Is Named in the Warrant
There’s three things to remember if you’ve been served with a search warrant:
- The purpose of a warrant is to protect your privacy and your rights. Requiring a warrant based on probable cause keeps police from just barging into our homes to take whatever they want.
- Even if the warrant is issued, you can contest its validity later. If a judge finds it invalid, all the evidence taken as a result of the warrant is thrown out. That can mean a dismissal of your case or a reduction of charges you can live with.
- You need a skilled criminal defense attorney—and you need one now. The police just went through your personal stuff, with a judge’s approval. They’re after you. And you’ll never have any hope of contesting the warrant without a legal tactician on your side.
If you’re the subject of a search warrant or you got charged with a crime based on one, contact us right now so we can start building your defense.
The victim in my case wants to drop charges against me. Won’t that get my charges dismissed?
Not necessarily, for a variety of reasons:
- It’s the State’s case. You should expect the case to get referred to a prosecutor—a lawyer whose job is convicting folks like you. The prosecutor can subpoena the victim to trial to testify against you, even if it’s against the victim’s will.
- The victim could be lying to you. It happens.
- The victim could change his or her mind. That also happens.
Just because a victim promises to drop the charges doesn’t mean you get off. You’ve still got the police and likely a prosecutor aligned against you.
To give yourself the best shot at a good outcome, you need a professional in your corner to fight for you. Before just relying on the word of a person who got you charged with a crime, sit down with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to strategize your defense. While the victim’s cooperation helps, it just doesn’t always win the day, and you can’t take a chance on your freedom or reputation.
If you need an experienced professional to look after you, call (888) 230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting where we can answer your questions and start building your defense—especially in showing the State the wisdom of granting the victim’s wish.
I got charged with a crime- or I might get charged. How will you defend me?
When people get charged with serious crimes in South Carolina General Sessions Court, be it drugs, assault, domestic violence, sex crimes, or worse, they want to know what we’ll do to defend them. Here’s how it works through the major steps of your case. We’ve written before on how the courts handle it. Here’s how we handle it.
Step by Step Through South Carolina’s Criminal Justice System
- Managing the police investigation. If you get approached by law enforcement, get ahead. Let us handle them so you don’t make a mistake that could gut your defense. We may even be able to prevent you from ever being charged.
- Bond. This is also called bail. If we get involved before arrest, we can often arrange to turn you in, giving you major advantages. It prevents the embarrassment of being hauled off from work or yanked out of your home in the wee hours. It can minimize your time in jail waiting on the judge. It can help reduce your bond amount, which we urge the judge to minimize using the proper legal standards.
- Build a defense around your goals. We get your side of the story, including what you aim to achieve in your defense. We hunt down helpful witnesses. We gather helpful evidence.
- Plan B. Sometimes you’ve got to plead guilty, but that’s not giving up. We develop the evidence for the only sentencing argument that matters: why you shouldn’t go to prison. (“I don’t want to” is never enough. If you don’t know what is, that’s why you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer).
- Demand discovery. We file a motion to get all the evidence the State has, including evidence that helps you. Sometimes we file more than one motion if we suspect the State hasn’t shared all the evidence or it owes you more.
- Scrutinize the evidence. We go through all the evidence to expose any holes in the State’s case we can exploit at trial. We also look closely for any legal arguments that might get your case dismissed or the evidence thrown out, like for illegal searches.
- Evaluate your best option to exceed your goal. After we have all the evidence, we develop a strategy to exceed your goals. It may be we just prepare for trial.
- Manage court appearances. You’ll have at least two. The first is very early, to dispose of basic administrative issues. The second announces whether the case is a plea or trial, though this can change.
- Plea or trial. However your case ends, we have you ready, armed with the best strategy to prevail. You’ll be thoroughly prepped in your role.
A lot of work to protect you goes into a guilty plea.
Trial preparation for us is intense and all-consuming. Your innocence is on the line, and we take it seriously.
Still a Do-It-Yourselfer?
Even if you still think you can handle all this on your own, the question remains, can you do it well? Well enough to feel secure in protecting your freedom and reputation from the government, which has its own lawyer?
The truth is, this is really hard. But since we do it for a living, it’s a lot easier for us to do it really well, to protect you, than it is for you. You have nothing to lose and potentially your life to regain by enlisting an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your case. If you’re curious, feel free to contact us right where you’re sitting to arrange a free strategy session about your case. Time’s growing short, so act fast to preserve your freedom and restore your peace of mind now.
What are the Miranda rights and what do the rights read before arrest mean?
The purpose of the rights read before suspects are arrested, called the Miranda rights for the United States Supreme Court decision requiring them, is simple. Police must fully advise a suspect of his right to silence and make sure it’s honored.
So here are the rights and what they are telling you, in my experience:
You have the right to remain silent.
Dwell on this. Is the Supreme Court trying to tell you something? The Miranda rights are also called warnings. Bad things can happen when you ignore a warning.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
If the police suspect you, assume they want to convict you. If they want to convict you, assume they will stop at nothing to do it. And it’s not just what you say that will be used against you. So will things you don’t say or interpretations of how you acted:
- “He never really strongly denied our charges.”
- “He seemed evasive answering our questions.”
Ever left a conversation wishing you’d added something? What if you get nervous and leave the meeting wishing you’d told them you were at your grandma’s the night of the restaurant break-in you just got grilled about?
You have the right to a lawyer during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before questioning, if you want.
Roll this one around your brain. What’s the Supreme Court telling you here? Not only do you have the right to a professional to help you in this situation, but the police have to cater one for you if you have no money. THINK ABOUT IT:
You have a right to something and you can get it for free. It sure seems like you ought to take it.
You have the right to stop answering questions at any time and refuse to answer any more.
Don’t overlook this one. While the police want you to forget it, it tells you who controls the interview: you.
Don’t Let Social Pressure Push You to Give Up Your Rights
Let’s face it: police questioning is downright scary, even if the police aren’t trying to frighten you. But sometimes they use intimidating or clever tactics to squeeze statements from suspects. They can even twist what you say into a meaning you never intended.
Police have a job to do: to point the finger at someone. If they want to meet with you, assume you’re the one they want to point at. We know it’s really, really hard to face down the police and refuse to talk when they so desperately want you to say something.
You need a professional whose job is protecting you and your rights.
Are You Innocent? That Might Not Be Enough to Protect You
Don’t put the police in position to make a mistake.
If police “just want to ask you a few questions,” you need to call a qualified criminal defense attorney to ask him a few questions first. Because what happens in that interview room can’t be undone, and if it goes badly for you, the consequences can last a lifetime. Call us at (888) 230-1841 or (864) 582-0416 right now to grab hold of your rights and use them before it’s too late.
I failed to remain silent when questioned and admitted my involvement in a crime. The officer told me I had a right to remain silent, but he also said that if I cooperated and helped him, he would help me. Now they are telling me that I need to plead guilty. Is there any hope?
Yes. But first, let’s remember no competent criminal defense attorney would give blanket advice to every person out there faced with every possible situation to simply remain silent. Whether you have made a statement or not, if you are faced with a criminal investigation, you should contact an attorney immediately as to the best way to handle your situation. Each case is different and this is not intended as advice on your case.
When our firm is hired to represent someone in a criminal matter, we do not promise results, but we do promise to explore every avenue as allowed by the rules of the court and the law to obtain the best result that we can under the circumstances.
Breaking Your Silence Usually Helps the Prosecution
Most criminal defense attorneys recognize that if every criminal defendant exercised his right to remain silent, the number of convictions obtained by law enforcement and the solicitor’s office would decrease dramatically. Remember, you do not have to prove you are innocent, but rather the state must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you don’t make a statement (after invoking your right to silence) or testify in your trial, the judge tells the jury they can’t even use that against you—they are not to consider it. This is why our firm has previously expressed said that testifying in your own defense is overrated.
But What If You Have Already Made a Statement?
When we take on a criminal case where a statement has been made, we look towards the following possibilities:
- Corpus delicti: This is Latin for “body of the crime.” It represents the legal principle that before a person can be tried for a crime, it must be proven that a crime has actually been committed. For our purposes today, we’ll focus on one conclusion of this rule: it should require more than a defendant’s out-of-court confession to prove the defendant’s guilt. In other words, if the only way to prove the crime was committed was by the defendant’s out-of-court statement or confession, the person should be found not guilty. So when we have a case where a statement has been given we check to see if there is any other evidence to support a conviction. If not, we may be able to get the case thrown out.
- Questioning violates certain rights: Before the police can question you about a crime to use in your prosecution, they are required to inform you of certain rights. You have the right to remain silent. Law enforcement has to inform you of this right before they interrogate you. If they fail to inform you of this, then it may be possible to have your statement suppressed, or excluded from the trial. Likewise, law enforcement has to inform you of your right to an attorney. If you ask for an attorney and are questioned anyway, it may be possible to have your statement suppressed. What we are really talking about is your statement being voluntary while aware of your rights, so if you are coerced or forced or otherwise tricked into giving a statement, action may be able to be taken to keep your statement out.
Sometimes you can’t talk your way out of getting charged
Many criminal suspects think that they can talk their way out of their situation by making a statement to police. This usually does not work. Sometimes you can’t talk your way out of things. The police may have already decided to charge you prior to ever talking to you. In these cases anything you say will simply be used against you. Even if innocent, some statements can be taken out of context; or, an innocent inconsistency may be used to suggest you are lying.
Sometimes a statement has been made and we just have to deal with it
When a statement has been made and we are unable to keep the statement out of court, we explore other possibilities to best address your statement in trial. For instance, it may make sense to admit the statement is true but that it doesn’t show the whole picture—and we can explain it in a way that minimizes the damage to your position. If a plea results we look at how the statement can be in included when we try to persuade the Court for a lenient sentence in mitigation, if that is the best avenue.
Again, each case is different. We would not tell a person never to speak to the police, just as we would not tell a person definitely to speak to the police without knowing the circumstances and facts of the particular situation. There are unique cases where we allow suspect or defendants to speak to law enforcement.
If you are charged with a crime—whether you have given a statement or not—or if you are under suspicion of and being investigated for criminal activity, act fast and contact a lawyer at once. If you would like the assistance of the attorneys at Holland & Usry, PA, please contact us at 864-582-0416 or toll free at 877-230-1841 for your free, confidential consultation.
Who can I talk to about my criminal charges?
You can talk to your criminal defense lawyer and anyone he allows. That’s it. Consider everyone else a potential witness for the prosecution, who wants to convict you. The entire state or federal government, with its awesome power and unlimited resources, stands against you. Your freedom and reputation are on the line. Don’t gamble with them.
Don’t Talk To Strangers…And Everyone Is a Stranger Until Your Lawyer Says Otherwise
I’ll say it again: don’t talk to anyone without your lawyer’s consent. This includes the obvious and not-so-obvious:
- The police. This may seem no-brainer, but folks charged with crimes do crazy, desperate things. You’re not talking your way out of this alone. You don’t have to like it, but you need to accept it. Is your brother-in-law a cop? Then he’s off limits until your case is resolved.
- Victim. This is the state’s chief witness! Contacting him in any form could get you rearrested. Threatening him is a separate criminal offense and evidence of your guilt of the original crime. If the victim was willing to give you a break, he never would have called the police in the first place. Let your lawyer handle the victim.
- Friends. They come and go. Don’t be victimized by one who goes, or talks too much to the wrong people. How can you tell if your friends will do this? You can’t. So don’t discuss your case with them.
- Strangers. We recently reported a high profile case where a young man got his bail revoked and thrown in jail because he talked to the wrong stranger on a train—a reporter who leaked the possible bail violation. Don’t talk to strangers. For you, everyone’s a stranger.
Don’t Ever Do This
There are two forms of communication to NEVER, EVER USE without your lawyer’s advice:
- Social media. If you saw someone charged with a crime call a press conference to protest her innocence, you’d likely think she was a little crazy. Social media’s no different. It’s a broadcast. Worse, it’s in writing. It could be taken the wrong way. Assume the state will find it, because the prosecutor probably will. Think your Facebook page is private? Not when it gets printed out and passed around or forwarded. I’ve used Twitter feeds to devastatingly cross-examine so-called victims. You can expect the state to do the same to you. For more info on this topic, read what I told the media about social media and court cases.
- Emails. Did you know one of the things that REALLY got the Duke lacrosse case going against the team was a player’s tasteless email that was really just a movie quote
The problem with social media is that it’s in writing, so it never goes away. And once it’s out, whoever gets it can take it to whomever they want—you lose total control of your audience. The last thing most people accused of crime need is an audience. It’s another way of talking to strangers, which you don’t do when you’re charged with a crime. While your case is pending, just stay away from the online world completely.
Always Do This
If you are charged with a crime or being investigated for one, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. You need someone who knows how the law and the system works so they can help make it work for you. This system is way beyond you, and you need someone who understands how it works, to make it work for you.
Yes, there are exceptions. Just don’t risk guessing about them without a full discussion and guidance from a criminal defense attorney you trust, because he knows what he’s doing.
If you are even being investigated, call us immediately for a free meeting to talk about how we can help you. If you’re already charged, you should do the same so we can help you get your back off the wall. The number is at the top of this page. Use it.
I got pulled over for a minor traffic violation, but the police kept asking me stuff until I let them search my car for drugs. Can they do that?
Maybe. But it’s a big maybe that can be the difference between possibly getting your charges dismissed, instead of your being convicted for the evidence they found in the search, like drugs or weapons.
Searches after traffic stops can result when police keep questioning you about things unrelated to the stop, which can end up in police searching the car to find evidence of crime. Sometimes people even agree to have their cars searched in this situation. We call this “extending the traffic stop.”
The real question is, what gives police the right to do that? And what happens if they violate your right against it? Let’s take a look at what you need to know.
Limits on the Police’s Authority at a Traffic Stop
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, a traffic stop is over when it’s over. In a routine traffic stop, the officer can:
- Request your license and registration,
- Run a check of your driving and criminal records, and
- Issue a ticket.
That’s it. Once he tells you you’re getting a ticket, the stop is over and you should be free to go.
Keeping you at the scene after that to ask you more questions is illegal unless the officer has reasonable suspicion of a serious crime. Note the exception. The officer can keep you for questioning unrelated to the stop for reasonable suspicion of another crime. The legal system struggles with a clear definition of “reasonable suspicion.” Basically, it means reasons, supported by facts, that he suspects you of another crime.
But what if he has no facts and keeps questioning you anyway until you finally give in and let him search?
The Consequences of Unjustifiably Extending a Stop
It’s a game-changer: The entire search is void, even if you consented to it. All evidence of any crime is thrown out, including any statement you made—even if you confessed.
The Stakes Are High and the Law Is Complex
Our state Supreme Court describes extending a traffic stop as undetectable by ordinary folks like you. You’re no legal technician, so you don’t know whether you’re free to leave or not, especially faced with a man with a badge and a gun. And the law is very complex.
You need a trained criminal defense attorney experienced in drug defense. No one wants to let somebody caught “red handed” go. You need a sharp criminal defense lawyer who can spot the facts because he knows the law, and who is able to present your side of the story convincingly to a skeptical prosecutor and possibly a judge. And the stakes couldn’t be higher for you. A successful argument here could be the difference between the stain of conviction—and even prison time—or thanking your lucky stars and moving on with life after a dismissal or a plea deal you can live with.
Send us an email from where you are now so we can schedule a free meeting to start building your defense.