South Carolina Criminal Procedure

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While the precise details of the criminal procedure used for processing offenders accused of felonies may differ from one county to another, the general outline of the procedure is constant across all geographical divisions of the state. So, if you or somebody who you know is being accused of a criminal act in South Carolina, here is what you can expect.

Custodial detention: The arrest can occur with or without a warrant; however, both the judiciary and the local law enforcement need to have probable cause to take a person into custody or to order such a procedure. The local criminal tribunal will only be approached if an arrest warrant is needed to bring the accused in.

A judicial arrest directive is usually sought in matters where there isn't enough evidence in the hands of the cops to detain the person on the spot. A warrantless arrest can occur when the individual in question is arrested while he is committing the crime or while leaving the scene of the incident. In both cases, there is strong probable cause to suspect the involvement of the individual in the criminal act.

If an arrest is made without probable cause, it can be challenged in the court of law. On the other hand, if a warrant has been issued, you can take it for granted that the judiciary has been given the opportunity to study the case and the evidence, and that the sitting magistrate has found strong proof to order the detention of the alleged offender.

Once the accused has been taken into custody, the arresting officer will usually read him his Miranda Rights; this is the right of the defendant to remain silent and not offer any incriminating statements to the cops. After being escorted to the sheriff's office, the suspect will be put through a round of questioning and deputies will verify the identity of this person and take his fingerprints while booking him.

Appeal for Bail: Except for individuals who are being suspected of crimes that are punishable with a life sentence or capital punishment, all other offenders have the right to bail. The bond hearing will generally be held within 24 hours of being taken into custody.

It is possible to make the surety payment on your own or get a bail bondsman to do it in exchange for a 10% to 15% fee. In some cases, the court may even allow the accused to post a property bond; this is when a lien is placed on the immovable assets of the accused in return for his release.

Initial hearings: Within 45 days of being arrested the accused will be taken to court for what is known as a roll call hearing. In this session, the judge notifies the defendant of his rights and makes sure that the accused knows that he can enlist the help of a state appointed attorney if he cannot afford legal representation on his own. The charges being brought against this person are also clarified at this point.

The arraignment hearing comes next and it is usually held within 120 days of arrest. This is where the defendant enters his plea; if a guilty plea is entered, there is no need for trial and the matter directly goes to sentencing. However, if any other plea is entered such as guilty by reason of insanity or not guilty, the matter will go to trial.

Of Plea Bargains and Preliminary Hearings: Most criminal matters are sorted out through a plea bargain in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for lesser charges brought against him. If the defendant is charged with a crime, he has the right to a preliminary hearing in which a judge will decide on the merits of the evidence collected in the matter.

Unless the judge dismisses the charges, the matter will next be heard by the grand jury which is a 13 juror panel that takes the final decision onwhether the matter should be sent to trial or not.

Trial and Sentencing: Through the case proceedings, lawyers on both sides present their evidence and witnesses and they are given the opportunity to cross examine the people called to the stand by the opposite team. A 12 member jury decides on the verdict. However, it is the judge who sentences the offender.