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FAQs About Criminal Cases in South Carolina

Are you facing criminal charges for the first time in Columbia or anywhere else in South Carolina? If "yes," you probably have a lot of questions about how the state handles criminal cases such as yours. In order to help you better understand criminal procedure in SC, we are providing a list of frequently asked questions. For further information or to defend your charges, don't hesitate to contact our firm directly for assistance.

1. What is General Sessions Court?

General Sessions is the "criminal court" in South Carolina. This court handles all misdemeanor and felony cases where the penalty involves 30 days or more in jail or minimum fine of $500 to the death penalty.

2. Which court handles minor offenses?

If an offense involves less than a $500 fine or less than 30 days in jail, the case is handled by the Magistrate and Municipal court system.

3. What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Criminal offenses are classified into misdemeanors and felonies with felonies being the most serious of the two. Generally, felonies are punishable by one year or more in prison. For example, cocaine trafficking and murder are both felonies. On the other hand, most simple first-time DUIs are misdemeanors. A list of misdemeanors and felonies can be found under Title 16 of the South Carolina Code.

4. What is a bond hearing?

This is the hearing where the judge decides if the defendant can be released on bond. Before the judge decides to release someone on bond, first the judge will determine if the defendant is a flight risk and whether he or she is a risk to the community. Bond hearings are held within 24 hours of the arrest.

5. When can an appeal be filed?

If the defendant pleads guilty or he or she is found guilty at trial, the defendant has 10 days to file an appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Please be aware that appellate courts specifically look for any legal errors that occurred during a trial. The defendant and any witnesses are not involved at this stage.

6. What are the possible outcomes of a criminal case?

The three main outcomes of a criminal case include: 1) the case can be dismissed due to insufficient evidence, 2) the defendant and prosecutor can reach a negotiated plea bargain, or 3) the defendant can be found guilty or not guilty by a jury. By far the majority of criminal cases are resolved through a negotiated plea bargain.

Looking for a Columbia, SC criminal defenseattorney? Contact Masella Law Firm, schedule a free case evaluation.