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Why It’s Not “Just” Magistrate Court: How South Carolina Magistrate Court Cases Are Handled

One of the worse legal mistakes anyone can make is thinking a Magistrate Court criminal charge is no big deal. Often, mishandling a case in this court has serious implications.

Why You Should Worry

People let themselves get convicted of crimes that follow them around for years and can lead to second offense charges later, like domestic violence.

One of the worse charges is driving under suspension (DUS). Did you know if you’re convicted of this, your license gets suspended even longer? This is where we see many people slide down a slippery slope of repeated DUS charges with seemingly unending license suspensions. Eventually, you’re trapped as a habitual offender with a potential 5-year inability to drive. If you’re pulled over driving during that suspension, you’re facing a felony conviction and up to 5 years in prison.

Then there’s DUI and DUAC. While these cases can be won, many folks give up hope and just plead guilty—leading to a conviction that can never be removed from your public record. It stays there forever, for all police—and employers you want to hire you—to see.

Shine a light on your DUI or DUAC charges. In my years defending these cases, I have realized that folks are in the dark about how they work—and how they can be defended. So I wrote a book for folks like you, to answer questions you often ask plus answer questions you SHOULD be asking. Even better, I’m offering you the chance to download my FREE BOOK on DUI and DUAC cases.

Now that you know the threat posed in Magistrate Court, let’s give you an understanding of the process in Spartanburg County.

Your First Court Date

On your traffic ticket, in very tiny writing around the middle of the ticket, you’ll find the date, time, and location of your first court date. This is a bench trial, meaning it’s a trial by the Magistrate Judge without a jury. If you’ve made the wise choice to hire an attorney, he can use this as an opportunity to attempt to negotiate your case into a plea deal you can live with. That’s what I try to do in many cases anyway.

Even if you can’t reach a deal, there is a bright side—you might get out quicker. One thing about these court dates is they are almost always virtually overflowing with people. Hopefully, if you’ve got an attorney, he can squeeze in early to talk to the officer instead of you having to wait until your name is called, which might take hours.

If you reach a deal you can live with, congratulations! The only downside, which isn’t really a downside, is you might have to wait until the courtroom clears if you attorney reaches a heck of a deal with the officer—sometimes officers don’t want everyone in court to know they gave anyone a great deal.

However, that’s a small price to pay for getting your case over where you never have to worry about it again, and you likely save money in attorney fees as a bonus.

If there’s no deal reached, your case is nowhere near over.

Request a Jury Trial

Requesting a jury trial doesn’t force you to trial, especially if you’ve got a skilled negotiator on your side. There’s always the potential of reaching a deal later.

You can actually request a jury trial before your first court date if you want. Because it keeps you from having to go to court and pushes your case back to delay it a few months, it can give you more time to hire a lawyer.

But if you request a jury trial, you’ve really got to hire an attorney now because that’s where the hard work starts—see the next section.

If you request a jury trial yourself, be sure to:

  1. Get a copy of the paperwork you signed to request the trial, plus the name of the court employee who took the notice from you, and  
  2. Confirm your court date is off, and you don’t need to be there anymore.

Naturally, an attorney can request a jury trial for you.

Handling the Evidence for Trial

After you request a jury trial, a vital phase of your case begins. You need to gather, analyze, and prepare to use the evidence supporting your defense and casting doubt on the State’s case against you.

That means you need discovery, the process where you obtain the evidence from the police that they will use to try to convict you. Assuming you know how to get it, you’ve still got to figure out:

  • Whether to use it
  • How to use it
  • How to keep bad evidence out if you can
  • Make sure helpful evidence for you is admissible

That’s one of the critical roles discovery plays in your case.

You’ve got to be able to handle discovery to handle the most important phase of all.

Magistrate Court Jury Trials

Going to trial alone without an experienced attorney is like operating on yourself. Sure, it might be “minor” surgery, but doing it wrong can leave a lifetime of damage. You’ll be expected to know the rules of court in conducting the trial and getting evidence in. You’ll be held to the same standard as the lawyer the police often have on their side, the prosecutor.

To show you what trial is like, here’s how it works for a DUI trial.

So if you don’t have an attorney by now, here’s your scalpel, start cutting.

You Don’t Have to Go it Alone

Just because your charge gets labeled a “minor” offense doesn’t mean it’s easy to defend or won’t leave a lifetime of consequences. If you’ve got questions about your Magistrate Court trial, you’re not alone, and we’re here to help. Check out how we defend you and how a DUI lawyer helps defend you.

There’s never any pressure to hire us at our free strategy session. To get your questions answered or schedule the session, call us toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form.

To get an idea of what it’s like to work with us, go to this website we don’t own for honest reviews from real clients.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a criminal defense attorney.