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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 I be arrested based on an anonymous tip?

    Maybe, but a tipster can’t just “call in” an arrest—police must prove an anonymous tip is reliable before they act on it.

    In the real world, an anonymous tipster needs a crystal ball—and verification by police that the tipster is telling the truth. 

    Evidence Police Need to Act on an Anonymous Tip

    Courts are mainly concerned with the reliability of anonymous tips. Plainly stated, the law doesn’t like these shadowy figures—maintaining a secret identity makes it easy to lie. So, the law’s installed some protections.

    Before the police can rely on an anonymous tip, basically two things must happen: 

    • The tipster must reveal their crystal ball and predict how the suspect will act in the future.
    • Police have to verify it. 

    Let’s see how it works using real cases. 

    When an Anonymous Tip Proved Reliable

    In a 1990 United States Supreme Court case called Alabama v. White, the Supreme Court validated an arrest based on an anonymous phone tip. Why? The caller gave highly specific information about what the suspect would do in the future. The caller told police the suspect would:

    1. Be at a specific place—an apartment complex.
    2. Leave at a specific time.
    3. Go to another specific place—a motel.
    4. Carry a certain amount of drugs on her in a specific place—about an ounce of cocaine in a brown suitcase.
    5. Drive a specific vehicle—a brown Plymouth station wagon with a broken taillight. 

    Next, and most important, police verified the tip. They found the car at the stated apartment complex, followed the suspect as she drove directly to the motel, and stopped the car shortly before she reached it. A search revealed weed in a suitcase and cocaine in the suspect’s purse. 

    Note the Court approved the arrest despite the fact the tipster didn’t get every detail right. Mainly, the tipster was wrong about where the drugs were. Only weed was in the suitcase, and cocaine was in her purse, not the suitcase.

    The major importance of this case is that the Supreme Court ruled a tipster’s ability to predict future behavior shows the tipster knows inside information about a suspect’s business. When police verified that information, they had reason to believe the caller was honest and well-informed—justifying the stop.

    When an Anonymous Tipster Wasn’t Reliable 

    In 2000, the South Carolina Court of Appeals overturned a drug conviction based on an anonymous tip in a case called State v. Green. In that case, an anonymous caller gave police the suspect’s name, a description of his car, the location he would leave from, and promised he had lots of money and drugs.

    The Court was unimpressed. It ruled the tipster gave no predictive information. It determined the tipster’s information was easily discoverable. The place the suspect left only had two possible exits. The investigating officer had no reason to suspect criminal activity aside from the tip. 

    In declaring this anonymous tipster unreliable, the Court blasted the risk of lying created by police relying on it: “The only information available to the officer was the statement of an unknown, unaccountable informant who neither explained how he knew about the money and narcotics, nor supplied any basis for the officer to believe he had inside information about Green. Since the telephone call was anonymous, the caller did not place his credibility at risk and could lie with impunity. Therefore, we cannot judge the credibility of the caller, and the risk of fabrication becomes unacceptable.”  

    Don’t overlook this. It didn’t even matter that the tip turned out to be right. The Court dismissed the case anyway. 

    You Need a Determined, Skilled Attorney to Investigate Your Tipster

    If an anonymous tipster jeopardized your rights and future, you need to make sure you hire a criminal defense attorney who knows how to evaluate the tipster’s knowledge to make the most powerful arguments that police never should have relied on him. That could be the difference between winning and losing for you. To schedule a free strategy session to start building your defense, call toll free at 888-230-1841.

     

  • What evidence should I get from the police or prosecutor in my drug case?

    Everyone charged with a crime in South Carolina has a right to discovery, meaning access to all of the evidence in your case—both good and bad. It’s called discovery after the motion you file to get it.

    Drug cases require specific evidence to convict you. Remember the State’s got to prove you guilty, so they’ve got to produce the evidence. You don’t have to produce a thing.

    Let’s look at some typical evidence we expect in drug cases.

    Drug Case Evidence

    • If your case involves a traffic stop, the officer’s in-car video camera footage. Many drug cases can be won by an experienced criminal defense attorney finding hidden, highly technical defenses here.
    • Chain of custody reports showing who took drugs from you and what they did with them. These can provide a sharp legal mind with the missing link to win your case.
    • Crime lab drug test reports verifying the identity of the drugs after scientific testing.
    • Reports proving the reason behind the severity of your charge— the weight of the drugs.
    • Reports proving the alleged “reliability” of a confidential informant, if one’s involved in your case.
    • Video or pictures of police drug buys.
    • If you’re charged with drugs in proximity of or near a school, documents that name the school and provide maps or measurements to show how close you were to it.
    • If your case involves a search warrant, a copy of the warrant and evidence related to how police got it. Sometimes, police fail to observe extremely precise legal requirements that a skilled drug defense lawyer can find and use to get the case thrown out.
    • If your case involves a drug dog, evidence related to the reliability of the dog. If the dog’s unreliable, the State might not be able to rely on the dog to convict you, meaning the drug charge gets thrown out.

    Now You’ve Got the Evidence, What Do You Do With It?

    Your ability to escape a conviction—and even prison—can’t depend on your hope that the prosecutor will throw you a bone or just forget about your case.

    Prosecutors think these cases are easy. You need an experienced professional who can show them why your case is hard. That takes a detailed analysis of discovery and a sound legal strategy.

    And some of the most important analysis might be a review of the evidence the State didn’t provide. Failure to provide vital discovery can result in evidence being excluded from trial, which can earn you a deal you can live with or even a dismissal.

    If you’ve got questions about drug discovery or anything else related to your drug charges, call toll free 888-230-1841 to set up a free, no pressure strategy session described in this brief video or to get your questions answered over the phone.

     

  • If I can get into the Solicitor’s Intervention Program for domestic violence charges, what will I have to do and how much does it cost?

    It depends. But before I tell you what the program involves, remember what it does: it gets the domestic violence charge dismissed AND wiped off your criminal record. Clients I’ve qualified for the program agree it doesn’t get much better than that.

    Here are more specifics about the components and cost of the Solicitor’s Intervention Program (SIP).

    What SIP Consists Of

    Certain parts of the program are mandatory, while others are used only if the program deems it necessary for you. Here are some typical components of the program:

    • Batterer’s Treatment Program, also called “anger management,”  is generally once a week for 1.5 hours per class. It takes 26 weeks to complete. This class is mandatory, as it’s the centerpiece of the program.
    • Alcohol or substance abuse counseling. You may be required to do this if there are allegations of drug or alcohol use involved in the incident.
    • Random drug screens. Again, these may only be required if there are allegations of drug use.
    • Mental health evaluation, with the requirement for you to abide by any doctor’s orders. This is not mandatory for every participant, but it may be used if there are mental health concerns from the incident.
    • Community service. This is often required. The program may allow you to “buy” up to 30 hours if you have a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs that equal around 40 hours a week. One hour costs $5. Often, the program lets you choose where you want to do the service, so it’s a great chance for you to give back to a place that’s meaningful to you.
    • Monthly reporting to a program representative assigned to your case. It’s basically a checkup to make sure you’re completing the program on time and to see how you’re doing overall. You’ll likely do this.
    • “Get Smart” program, a presentation by prison inmates about how their crimes affected their lives and the lives of others so that you won’t make the same mistakes. This is often required.
    • Written assignment on law and accountability. It’s basically an essay on what you learned from your experience and possibly how it affected you and others. You should count on doing this.

    While this might seem like a lot, my clients seem to disagree. I’ve never gotten any complaints that this was too much to do to get the result the program offers.

    The Cost of SIP

    Here are the costs associated with the program, which you pay over time:

    • $100 application fee. This is due when you apply to see if the program will let you in.
    • $250 participation fee. Once you’re accepted into the program, you pay this fee. It usually occurs 4-6 weeks after you have paid the application fee.
    • Batterers Treatment/Anger Management is $25-$35 per class, depending on which program you get assigned.
    • Random drug screens cost $25 per test, but those fees might not be due until the end of the program.
    • The last, best cost: expungement order processing fee of around $285. While this is optional, it is the best government fee you’ll ever pay because it gets the charge wiped off your record.  Once this processing fee is paid, several weeks later, you’ll get a court order directing law enforcement agencies to remove the charge from your criminal record and destroy all reports of it except for one, which is kept at State Law Enforcement Division headquarters in Columbia for the sole purpose of making sure you don’t go through the SIP program again.

    Give Yourself the Best Shot at Wiping the Slate Clean

    While it’s a government program, SIP is far from a handout. You’ve got to convince up to three opponents that they should drop the case against you and give you a shot at a new start. You may be facing an angry victim, a determined officer, and a hard-nosed prosecutor—and they don’t want to give up the gratification of a conviction against you. 

    And even if the victim supports you, you could still face an uphill battle.

    To give yourself the best shot at a new start, you need a professional who can handle convincing these folks to let go. If you’re wondering what it’s like for us to handle your case, check out the reviews on a website I don’t own. It won’t cost you a thing to sit down with me to get your questions answered—and for the first time in your case, you’ll be talking to a professional whose job it is to get you to a brighter day. To start building your defense, call us at 888-230-1841.

     

  • I got busted for drugs, and I think it’s because someone told the police—or even helped them. Can I find out who did it?

    Maybe. I know that’s almost the worst answer to hear when your back is against the wall on serious drug charges. But technical legal rules impact your rights here—that’s why you need a technician to help you.

    Here are the basics:

    When Disclosure Is Usually Required

    The State must often reveal the identity of the police informant when the informant:

    • Actively participated in the drug sale for which the suspect got charged.
    • Set up the police drug sale.
    • Introduced police to the suspect.
    • Is a material witness to the drug crime, like when he’s the only other witness to it other than the buyer and the suspect.

    NOTE: There are exceptions. Disclosure isn’t always required here. If other factors or circumstances justify denying disclosure, the judge can keep the informant’s identity from you.

    When Disclosure Isn’t Required

    Courts won’t force the State to give up its informant when the informant is:

    • Merely a tipster who gave a lead to law enforcement. That can mean the informant just called to tell police about seeing the suspect with drugs, instead of actively participating in a police set-up to buy from the suspect.
    • A relatively unimportant witness who has little direct knowledge of the crime.

    For example, in 1996, the South Carolina Court of Appeals upheld not disclosing the identity of an informant who sat in the car during a drug buy orchestrated by police. The Court ruled against disclosure because the informant:

    • Took no part in the drug deal,
    • Had no part in setting it up,
    • Never came near the suspect charged with selling the drugs,
    • Never described the suspect to authorities,
    • Never identified the suspect as selling drugs,
    • And wasn’t the only other witness to the drug sale aside from the buyer and the defendant.

    Give Yourself the Best Shot at Full Disclosure

    Prosecutors don’t give up their sources without a fight. But it’s your freedom at stake, so you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to convince a judge to provide the informant’s identity. Because if you can’t take on your real accuser in court, you may just be fighting in the dark. That doesn’t end well.

    To get your questions answered by an experienced criminal drug charge lawyer, fill out our Get Help Now form right now.

     

  • 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. One good thing about the law is, since your case may be based on weight, a talented defense attorney may be able to flip the script on the police by showing they didn't weigh the drug properly, which could win your case.

    Here’s another way it can work against you.

    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.

    Here’s more on search warrants and how they can be invalidated.

    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.
    • If you're willing and eligible, press the prosecutor to get you into a program to dismiss the charge and get it off your record. You may have some other options, but it'll take convincing skeptical prosecutors and officers, not to mention the potentially angry victim that some cases present. These programs include pre-trial intervention, the solicitor's intervention program for domestic violence cases, and the solicitor's drug intervention program.  
    • 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 for discovery, which is  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.