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Holland & Usry, P.A.

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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  • Can my criminal domestic violence case go to Pre-Trial Intervention?

    Maybe, if the circumstances are exactly right.

    Let’s start off by examining whether you would want Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), because that’s the easy part. The answer is YES. PTI is no picnic, but it’s better than the possibility of jail time and hefty fines that could result from a Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV) conviction. And here’s the best part- completing PTI gets your case dismissed and the charges removed from your criminal record.

    Unfortunately, you don’t get to decide to take PTI instead of a criminal conviction. You can request PTI, but the decision to give you a break is out of your hands.

    You Get PTI Only If a Lot of Cards Fall Your Way—But Your Attorney Can Shift The Odds in Your Favor

    Let’s say you’ve been charged with CDV, third degree. More serious levels of Criminal Domestic Violence don’t allow for Pre-Trial Intervention.

    Next, you would have to convince the State and the victim to allow it. You cannot demand PTI; rather, the State and the victim must agree.

    If you’ve been charged with third-degree Criminal Domestic Violence, PTI can be a pearl of great price, especially since it can erase the stain of a conviction and prevent the anxiety of the charge hanging over your head while the case winds its way through the courts. These cases often feature emotional victims and prosecutors who feel public pressure to obtain convictions. You’ll need an experienced lawyer who can defend your case to win it and skillfully negotiate your ability to apply for the program.

    If you hope for your CDV to end with it being wiped off your criminal record, call us at (864) 582-0416 or (888) 230-1841 to discuss building a two-part defense to win in the courtroom and at the conference room negotiating table. Let us give you the best shot at Pre-Trial Intervention.

     

  • I got charged with criminal domestic violence—but I never touched anyone! Is that legal?

    Unfortunately, yes. But just because you got charged sure doesn’t mean you can be proven guilty. To win your case, you’ll need a sharp defense attorney who knows how to calm aggressive prosecutors and soothe jury desires to “right this wrong” by convicting you…because, let’s face it, emotions almost always run high in these cases.

    The Law Determines the Charges (and the Law Isn’t Always What You Think)

    The reason you got charged is due to the definition of Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV). You commit CDV when you…

    • Hurt a household member, defined as a current or former spouse, a person you have a child with, or a member of the opposite sex you live with or used to live with.
    • Threaten or attempt to hurt a household member (with the apparent present ability to carry out the threat) and thereby create a reasonable fear of imminent peril.

    So your charge comes under the last part. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt you basically scared the complainant into believing he or she was about to get hurt. But that fright must be for a good reason—the State has to prove it legitimately looked as if you could carry out any threat you made. That’s why charging at your wife with a steak knife, hollering, “I’m gonna stab you right now!” is CDV. Telling her the same thing over the phone on a long-distance call doesn’t count as Criminal Domestic Violence, because your wife has no reason to expect you could stab her right now.

    But threatening your wife is never a good idea.

    While your case is weaker than one with a bruised victim in a torn-up home, it doesn’t mean you can’t be convicted. The penalties for a conviction can include heavy fines, jail time, and even loss of gun ownership. You’ve got a defensible case, but it needs to be presented the right way to be won. If you’d like more information how you can build a strong defense, please to email us right where you’re sitting to schedule a free meeting to discuss your rights and defenses.

  • I Committed a Crime and Have No Defense. Can I Get Probation Without an Lawyer?

    The worst part of sentencing is the awful silence where the only sound is the judge scratching out your sentence with his pen on your sentencing sheet. The vast majority of the time, you don’t know whether you’re getting probation until the judge announces your sentence. The lone exception is a special, rare type of guilty plea where the sentence is negotiated.

    But you can be confident you’re getting probation with an ordinary guilty plea—assuming you’re eligible—if you have an experienced lawyer who knows how to prove you probation-worthy. In many cases, we convince the solicitor to recommend probation to the judge, which often seals the deal.

    These are some basic factors for probation eligibility in South Carolina:

    The Severity of the Crime

    Some crimes are deemed so serious by the legislature that the law prohibits probation. This includes child molestation, some drug charges, and repeat DUI offenses. In non-probation offenses, it’s vital to get a sharp lawyer who can win your case, and if he can’t, can help you secure a guilty plea to a reduced charge giving you a shot at probation.

    The Specifics of Your Case

    Legally, probation is considered a matter of grace granted to a deserving accused. You have to prove you are deserving. Whether you can get probation in any case depends on many factors that boil down to the facts and circumstances of your case and the facts and circumstances of you. Hopefully you can hire a lawyer who knows how to establish you are worth probation. Some important things probation depends on include:

    • Solicitor and victim agreement. If they are on board, that may be all you need. Don’t expect them to just give in to your pleas for mercy, though.
    • Your prior record. Every time you complete probation but don’t change your life, your chance of getting it diminishes…especially if you are in court on the same or similar charge.
    • The nature of the crime. Whether the crime was violent or not, an isolated incident or a crime spree can influence the amount of punishment the judge thinks you need.
    • What you’ve done since. Proof you’ve worked hard, that you support your family, that you’re active in the community, and that you have shown remorse can convince a judge you can be rehabilitated without prison.
    • What you’ve done before. The same factors above apply, plus a solid employment record and proof you’ve worked to achieve an education or other accomplishments can show a judge you’re a solid citizen who can complete probation.
    • Character evidence. Evidence demonstrating your good character shows the judge that the crime is not typical of the person you are, so it won’t happen again.
    • Family support. It gives a judge some security knowing you’re backed by a solid family to keep you straight.

    Don’t Go It Alone

    Getting probation is often hard. Victims may be angry, the solicitor may be aggressive, and it can take a lot of information from various sources to convince the powers that be that you should get probation. Because your freedom is on the line, it’s time to get someone who is a professional at protecting it. If you’re worried about getting probation and all the hard, complex work it might entail to get it, call us today for a free meeting to discuss what we can do to help you pave the way to probation.

     

  • I’m guilty of the crime they’re accusing me of, so why should I go to the trouble and expense of getting a lawyer?

    Because it’s wise.

    Folks charged with serious crimes need a defense lawyer who prepares to win their case no matter what, and who isn’t afraid of trial. Remember: to convict, the State has to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury, who all agree. Who knows? You might have a defense available that you never considered, and an experienced lawyer can use that to your advantage.

    Seasoned criminal defense lawyers know how to help guilty people avoid a conviction by convincing prosecutors they're eligible for alternative programs like pretrial intervention or conditional discharges.

    As for what good a lawyer can do it you’re pleading guilty, you can be confident it’s the right thing to do because your lawyer—whom you trust—has left no stone unturned trying to find a winning defense. You can actually feel good about pleading guilty, knowing it’s the best possible outcome that could have been reached in this case.

    And remember in most serious criminal cases, the State has a lawyer. Pleading guilty without a lawyer is like a Super Bowl team deciding to leave its quarterback at home.

    A talented criminal defense lawyer realizes pleading guilty is not for quitters. These are some things he can do to help you:

    • He can be your buffer against the fearsome power of the government. This is your life. Be honest about two vital things: you’re emotionally involved in this case and probably have no idea what you’re doing. Confronting the State’s lawyer alone is like performing surgery on yourself, alone, in the dark, without a flashlight. Give it to a professional to get it done right.
    • He can minimize consequences. He can negotiate reduced charges that could save years off your sentence—and maybe keep you from going to prison at all, by obtaining a sentence of probation.
    • He can help you understand other consequences of a conviction, so you’re not shocked later. Many people plead guilty not knowing there are punishments beyond prison, probation, or fines. Some of the saddest cases we’ve seen are folks who just pay the fine for a driving under suspension, then come to us wide-eyed saying they had no idea their license would get suspended for even longer.
    • He can steer you to community resources to address the root cause of your crime. The justice system wants to see an accused person overcome his behavior problems by attending drug rehab, anger counseling, or similar programs. An experienced lawyer can help you find these resources to prove you’ve learned from your mistake and are determined to never let it happen again.
    • He can make a full presentation to the judge at your plea hearing to convince her to keep you out of prison. Many factors can be presented by a skilled advocate to show you’re not a hardened criminal deserving of harsh punishment. A talented defense lawyer can help you develop a defense against prison if he can’t develop a defense to win your trial.

    At Holland & Usry, we admit pride and ego push us to win…but we never forget what’s really on the line: your freedom and future. Sometimes the best way to preserve both is to take a deal. And the decision is always yours. A good lawyer helps you make the right one. If your freedom and future are in jeopardy, email us from right here to see how we can safeguard you.

     

  • Can I get criminal charges removed from my record?

    Possibly. South Carolina law allows criminal charges to be removed from your record under certain circumstances. The process of removing the charges from your record—and destroying all evidence of them in the public record—is called expungement.

    We’ll explore more specific examples of expungement in different situations in other articles in our website, but the following are generally eligible for expungement:

    • Charges that get dismissed or result in acquittal at trial. But be careful: charges dismissed as part of a plea bargain might not qualify.
    • Certain first offense convictions carrying a penalty of up to 30 days in jail or a $1000 fine or both. Qualifying convictions include check fraud, criminal domestic violence, and simple possession of marijuana. But not DUI- another reason to fight that charge.
    • A conviction where you got sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA). YOA is open only to offenders under age 25, and only for certain offenses.
    • First offense failure to stop for a blue light.
    • Diversion programs. This includes pretrial intervention (PTI), alcohol education program (AEP), traffic education program (TEP), and conditional discharges, which can be available for some  drug charges and criminal domestic violence.
    • Certain juvenile convictions. Many, but not all, juvenile convictions in family court offer the chance to expunge your record.

    The easiest way to qualify for expungement is to win your case by dismissal or acquittal at trial. The next easiest is to qualify for a diversion program, like PTI. If you have multiple charges and might need to make a plea bargain, your expungement options should be considered. This complicates your case.

    The best way to give yourself the best shot at expungement is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows the expungement law and can work to get you qualified even if you plead guilty or get convicted. As with any court process, expungement requires sending a proposed order to the proper authorities to get the necessary approvals to get your record erased. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you make sure you get it done right and fast.

    But the most important reason to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer is to win your case…because you might not be guilty.

    At Holland & Usry, we work to win and if we can’t, we work to make sure our clients suffer as little punishment as possible—with the hope they can qualify for expungement in the future. If you’ve been charged with a crime and wonder if you’ll ever get it off your record, call us at 864.582.0416 or toll free at 888.230.1841 for a free meeting to discuss your defenses and your expungement options.

     

  • I was recently pulled over and arrested. The police searched my car. Can they do that?

    Sometimes. When a police officer makes a lawful arrest of an occupant or the occupants of an automobile he may, at the same time of the arrest, search passenger compartments of the vehicle. He may also examine the contents of any container (such as a purse, backpack, or briefcase) found within the passenger compartment. But the police may do this only if the occupant who was arrested is within reaching distance of a passenger compartment at the time of the search, or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. Otherwise, the search may be unreasonable.

    If the search is unreasonable, it is a violation of your Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable search and seizures. Thus, any evidence obtained during the unreasonable search should be excluded from your trial, meaning that evidence can’t be used against you. The suppression of evidence often leads to a dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict.

    For example, consider a person who is arrested for driving under suspension. He is handcuffed and locked in a patrol car. At that point, he does not have access to his car to retrieve weapons or evidence any longer. Generally speaking, this would make any subsequent search of the automobile invalid. So, if this person was arrested and locked in a patrol car, and if the police search the pocket of a jacket on the back seat and find cocaine, the possession of such cocaine would be inadmissible in a trial, and thus the defendant would not be found guilty of possession of cocaine.

    If you have been charged with a crime and searched and evidence was seized, the search may have been unlawful. If the search was unreasonable, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to exclude that evidence from being used against you. This is helpful in reaching a dismissal, a not-guilty verdict, or a favorable plea bargain. If you wish to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers of Holland & Usry, P.A. at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 for your FREE confidential consultation.

     

  • I was convicted of failure to stop for a blue light. I’m really worried about future employers seeing it on my criminal record. Can I get that charge off my record?

    Quite possibly. If your conviction is for a first offense with no great bodily injury or death, you may be eligible to have the charge wiped from your criminal record. This process is called “expungement.” South Carolina law allows expunging this charge just one time.

    To qualify, you must wait three years after completing your entire sentence and have no other convictions during those three years.

    The expungement process requires obtaining a court order. If you think you might be eligible, you should contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in expungement to make sure the order is prepared correctly and submitted through the proper administrative channels. You should act the instant you are eligible to prevent the chance of any other conviction that could make you ineligible.

    At Holland & Usry, our criminal defense attorneys regularly handle expungement requests in Spartanburg and other nearby towns, so we’ve developed a system to get it done as fast as possible for low cost. If you are eligible or curious about expungement for this or any other charge, feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 to discuss your options.

     

  • I have been charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. I know I hurt the guy pretty badly, but he was coming at me with a knife. Do I have a defense?

    Yes. You have the defense of self-defense. Self-defense is the force one uses to protect himself or others. The force must be reasonable in consideration of the threat of harm.

    In South Carolina, if there is evidence to support self-defense, it is your right to assert it. According to South Carolina law, if the defendant and his criminal defense attorney argue self defense the state must disprove at least one of the following:

    • The defendant is without fault in bringing on the difficulty.
    • The defendant believed he was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering serious injury, or actually was in imminent danger.
    • If based on belief of imminent danger, a reasonable person would have entertained the same belief.
    • If based on actual imminent danger, under similar circumstances a person of ordinary prudence, firmness, and courage would be justified in acting as the defendant did to save himself.
    • The defendant had no other probable means of avoiding the danger.

    If the self-defense claim is successful, then the actions the defendant took in order to avoid his being harmed will be considered legal use of force. A winning self-defense claim can result in a not guilty verdict when a person is charged with the various degrees of assault and battery, attempted murder, or murder.

    If you have been charged with one of these offenses, it is important for you to talk to a lawyer. You cannot reasonably expect to handle your own criminal case to a satisfactory conclusion. If you would like to discuss a criminal matter with one of the attorneys of Holland & Usry, please use the instant chat feature on this page or call us as soon as possible at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841.

     

  • I was just charged with driving while under suspension, first offense. I did not even know my license was suspended. The fine does not seem to be much. Should I just plead guilty and move on?

    Under almost all circumstances I advise against simply pleading guilty or paying the fine on a driving while under suspension (DUS) first offense charge. At the very least, if you have been charged with this crime you should speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to learn what actions would be in your best interest.

    The law in South Carolina says that a person who drives a motor vehicle on any public road of this state while his license to drive is canceled, suspended, or revoked is guilty of driving under suspension. For a first offense the person is to be fined $300 (and court costs which more than doubles the fine), or jail for up to 30 days, or both. However, if the driver’s license had been suspended for a DUI conviction, then the penalties become $300 plus costs, or a period of 10 to 30 days in jail.

    While there are exceptions, it’s typical that a person convicted of DUS first offense can avoid any jail time if he has the ability to pay the fine and court costs.

    The Second Line of Penalties: Extended License Suspension

    I cannot count how many times I have heard—after the fact—a variation of the following, “The officer told me if I plead guilty he would recommend the minimum fine and no jail time. I just thought it would be easier to get it over with because it would be cheaper than hiring a lawyer.”

    But is it really cheaper? Maybe not. In addition to the criminal penalties, there are also civil penalties, including a longer suspension of your driver’s license. The period of time for which a person’s driver’s license is suspended upon conviction depends on the original reason for his license suspension. Consider these examples:

    • If your license had been suspended for failure to pay a no seat belt fine, and if simply paying the seat belt fine and the reinstatement fee at the DMV would have allowed you to get your license back in the first place, the additional suspension is for only 30 days.
    • If your suspension was for some specific period, the extended license suspension upon conviction of DUS will be for a similar time period. For instance, if your license was suspended for six months due to a DUI first conviction, then you would incur an additional six months’ license suspension if convicted of DUS first offense.
    • In cases where there is not a defined period of suspension, the suspension may be extended for an additional three months.

    After you have fulfilled the criminal penalties and after your license suspension period, you may think everything is reset to normal. It isn’t. In almost all situations, before you can get your license back you are required to get SR-22 insurance. Folks sometimes call this drunk driving insurance. It is more expensive insurance for “risky drivers,” and it costs more money than a regular liability policy. You will have to carry this insurance for three  years, and the costs can be in the thousands of dollars. Also, you will have to pay reinstatement fees to the DMV before you are given your license back.

    You Can Fight DUS Charges in South Carolina

    Remember, just because you have been charged with DUS first offense does not mean that you will necessarily be convicted. You are entitled to a trial by judge or jury. Before you can be convicted, the state (usually the arresting officer) must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    One requirement is that the state must offer as proof a certified copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles. An additional requirement is that the prosecuting officer must demonstrate that you actually received notice from the DMV that your license was in fact suspended.

    It is important to treat a DUS first offense seriously, because the penalties you potentially face are so severe. If you are like most folks, you depend on a car to get you from point A to point B. Without a car, it is difficult to participate in other functions of life, such as employment, education, getting children to and from school, obtaining groceries, and many other daily activities.

    All too often, someone whose license is suspended because of a DUS conviction makes the decision to drive anyway, leading to another arrest. Each repeat arrest is treated more harshly, and it starts a downward spiral that can result in felony charges and convictions, along with an indefinite or permanent revocation of your right to driver in South Carolina—or any other state.

    If you have been charged with driving under suspension first offense, or any other driving-related charge, and would like to discuss it with the criminal defense lawyers at Holland & Usry, P.A., please do not hesitate to contact our office at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841. You may have certain defenses, and true cost of a DUS conviction is much more than a fine.

     

  • Will I have to testify in my criminal trial?

    The honest answer: Maybe. In our years defending criminal cases at Holland and Usry, we’ve found few things generate more fear in an accused person than taking the stand in their own defense. We’ll address those emotions in a minute. But first, set them aside so you can focus on what guides our decision. This is not a lofty notion but three bedrock FACTS:

    • To convict you, the government must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
    • The accused always has the right to remain silent.
    • The jury cannot hold your silence against you. The judge must instruct the jury they cannot even discuss your not taking the stand in their deliberations.

    Because it’s all up to the government to prove your guilt, we’re not going to do their work for them. If your testimony would remove all doubt of your guilt, you’re not testifying. But even if you’re innocent, you still might not take the stand.

    Some Good Reasons to Not Testify Even If You’re Innocent:

    It’s unnecessary.

    The classic example is a DUI: if there is a video of you, the way you look on the video already establishes whether you were impaired. By the way, if you’re worried about how you did on those field sobriety tests, check out our free report on DUI cases, which has a chapter that should relieve your anxiety about that.

    It hurts our strategy.

    If we put up any evidence, we lose the last closing argument. That means the State gets an extra shot to talk to the jury about everything they think is wrong with our defense. The last voice in the jury’s ears will be the prosecutor who wants to condemn you. Sometimes it’s just better for them to hear what we have to say last.

    Your emotions overwhelm the necessity of your testimony.

    Unlike anyone else in the courtroom, you’re the only one whose life and reputation is at stake. On the stand, you might feel like the verdict is in your hands alone. This can be overwhelming, and you’re justified feeling afraid and nervous. Fear and nerves create mistakes—you need only look at the world of sports where many games are decided on missed field goals, free throws, or short putts. And this is no game.

    When You Do Testify: the Antidote for Fear and Nerves.

    If your testimony is necessary, we counter your fear and nerves with the best antidote: preparation. This does not mean memorizing speeches or dishonestly twisting facts hoping to fool the jury. On the stand, your best friend is honesty, even admitting things that hurt you a little bit. Remember if your testimony hurts a lot, you’re not doing it. We work with our clients to develop their testimony so you’ll feel prepared when you take the stand to defend yourself. You’ll know:

    • The facts of your case so you don’t get tripped up.
    • Honest, meaningful explanations for things that hurt you. Sometimes admitting dumb mistakes—like prior convictions—and taking responsibility for them helps the jury understand your innocence in this case. It also takes a lot of gas out of the prosecutor’s cross-examination.
    • How to respond patiently, respectfully, and honestly even when you’re getting grilled. Our goal is to keep you calm on the stand so the jury views you as a reasonable person. You might get a little seared by a very talented prosecutor, but not burned to a crisp.
    • How to use cross-examination as a way to repeat your defense. While questions are generally designed to be answered yes or no, you can explain in a way that continues to help your case: “Yes, I was there when the car got stolen, but I never touched it and the only fingerprints officers found were someone else’s.”

    If you’ve been charged with a crime and want to discuss your options, including whether you’ll have to testify, do contact us by phone at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841, email, or start a live chat and we’ll get in touch with you.