Frequently Asked Questions
1. HOW DO I GET MY FRIEND/RELATIVE OUT OF JAIL?
Generally, a Magistrate Judge will set a bond shortly after the arrest has taken place. The amount of the bond will depend on how serious the charge is and what kind of record the defendant has. Someone must post the bond with the Magistrate’s office to get the defendant released from jail. Posting a bond may be done in cash, by a bondsman or by putting up real estate.
2. WHAT IS A PRELIMINARY HEARING?
A preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing. A defendant has 10 days to request a preliminary hearing after arrest. This request must be in writing. A defendant will lose his right to request a preliminary hearing after 10 days has passed. The preliminary hearing is often the best and only chance to get the arresting officer to testify under oath, which can make or break a defense involving an illegal search-and-seizure issue.
3. WHEN WILL THE FIRST COURT APPEARANCE TAKE PLACE?
Usually, a defendant will have to appear in Court within the first month of arrest. In Magistrate’s Court, the appearance date is on the ticket.
If the case is a General Sessions (Big Court) case, then a defendant will receive a card in the mail telling them to come to Court. It is the defendant’s responsibility to keep the Prosecutor’s office informed of an address change.
4. WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN WE GO TO COURT?
In Magistrate’s Court, the first court date can be the last. Be prepared that the system wants you to plead guilty to the ticket and pay a fine immediately. Your case will go to trial in front of the Magistrate Judge unless you request a jury trial. Lawyers almost always request a jury trial.
5. WHAT IS A RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL?
Unfortunately, in South Carolina, you really don’t have one. It has become common practice in Greenville that if you request a speedy trial, then all negotiations are off the table and you are put in line for a trial. Lawyers almost never request a speedy trial.
6. HOW DO I GET A “MOTION FOR DISCOVERY?”
Discovery refers to the paperwork that shows the evidence that will be used to convict a defendant. A defendant has to file paperwork with the Prosecutor to be provided with this paperwork. It almost always takes follow-up phone calls and a visit to the Property and Evidence Room to get to see everything.
7. WILL THE “VICTIM” BE AT COURT?
A “victim” may choose to be at Court if they want. State law requires that the “victim” be notified of all Court appearances and afforded the opportunity to state what they think should happen in the case. The majority of cases are handled without the “victim” being present.
8. HOW SOON BEFORE THE CASE GOES TO JURY TRIAL?
In Greenville, most criminal trials take place between 10-14 months from the date of arrest. It is important to know that, once a case is noticed for trial, all negotiations are off, and the jury will decide.
9. IF THE “VICTIM” WANTS TO DROP CHARGES, WHEN WILL THE CASE GET DISMISSED?
The State owns the charge once a defendant is arrested, so the “victim” does not have the power to drop the charge. However, with the “victim” on your side and a good lawyer, the State can usually be convinced that it would be in everyone’s best interests to dismiss the case.
10. WHAT IS PRE-TRIAL INTERVENTION?
The 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office will send out notices suggesting that a defendant should apply to Pre-Trial Intervention. What the notice does not tell a defendant is that the “victim,” the arresting officer, and the Prosecutor have to agree to Pre-Trial Intervention. Too many times, a defendant pays the $100 fee to apply only to be told that they cannot get into Pre-Trial Intervention. Without knowing ahead of time that Pre-Trial Intervention will accept a defendant, it can be a waste of money.