Your nerves are shot. You’ve just gotten a call from your wife, who’s worried sick—an officer is outside your door to arrest you.
You can’t believe it. When the police officer called you about it, you came to the station to explain it personally to him and even made a statement about it. You tried to help them, and they said they would help you. For now, none of that matters anymore. You’re feeling like your life has just spiraled out of your control.
You may not be ablet to control the process, but educating yourself about it is empowering. Here’s how a General Sessions case usually works.
The South Carolina General Sessions Criminal Case Process
The first thing you need to know is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Your case will not move with blinding speed through the criminal courts as in the movies. This is real life, and these cases take time—which is usually a good thing for the accused.
Once you get to the jail, you’ll be fingerprinted, have the warrant read to you, and most likely get into a jumpsuit and flip flops. You will get the proverbial phone call at some point.
The purpose of bail (also called bond for the way money gets put up for it) is to protect the community from any threat posed by the accused and make sure the accused appears in court. Unless you are charged with a crime that carries up to life in prison, your bail will be set at the jail by a magistrate. If you are charged with a crime carrying life in prison, you’ll have to make a motion to get in front of a state court judge in General Sessions. It's also worth remembering that if you’re charged with a serious crime, there’s no question you need to get a criminal defense attorney on your case immediately.
Your criminal defense lawyer will know how to file a motion with the court for discovery. This forces law enforcement officers and the prosecutor (called a solicitor in South Carolina) to give you copies of all the evidence against you, including evidence that will help your defense.
First Court Appearance
At the first appearance, the court covers administrative issues, most importantly whether the case should be on the 180- or 365-day track, meaning the earliest date after the arrest warrant your case could be tried. Most cases are on the 180-day track. Extremely serious cases like murder and child molestation generally go on the 365-day track, because those cases typically involve more complex evidence. Your lawyer can file a report so you don’t have to attend this court appearance; if you have no lawyer, you must go or you will be rearrested and might stay in jail until your trial or plea.
Second Court Appearance
The second appearance is designed to inform the court whether your case will be a plea or trial. Either side can later change this decision. As with the first appearance, you typically don’t have to attend the second appearance if you have a lawyer, but you must attend if you have no attorney.
This can occur at any time in the process, but it usually comes after second appearance. There are three basic ways Spartanburg General Sessions criminal cases are disposed:
- Dismissal/Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI): Sometimes the state drops the charges, often with the leverage of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Still, this is rare. PTI is an option for first-time offenders. It allows them to complete a program which ends in a dismissal of the case and the erasure of the charge from their criminal record.
- Guilty Plea: Most cases are resolved this way, often by admitting to reduced charges in exchange for the dismissal of other charges.
- Trial: Before you ever consider standing before a judge and jury with the entire state of South Carolina against you and represented by an experienced Solicitor, remember Abe Lincoln: “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
You Don’t Have To Go It Alone
The criminal process is frightening and foreign to regular folks. You need someone on your side who’s familiar with the territory to guide you through this process and help end it in the very best way for you.
If nothing else, the criminal process is a lot to keep up with. At Holland & Usry, we do more than just keep up with your court dates—we keep you involved in your case to develop the best possible defenses to win your case. If you are even being investigated for a crime, call our experienced criminal defense lawyers today to see how we can get involved to relieve some of your stress, help you keep working and living your life, and take on the strain of convincing the courts of your innocence (or at least shielding you from the worst punishment). We serve Spartanburg, Cherokee County, and beyond.
Call us right now at 864-582-0146 or toll free at 888-230-1841 to meet with us about your case so we can lighten your load and soothe your fears.