Choosing A Criminal Defense Attorney In Myrtle Beach, SC
If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with a crime in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, then you need to seek out the services of a criminal defense attorney. The future can be frightening when facing criminal charges, and you will be able to alleviate your most pressing anxieties and feel more empowered by seeking the advice, counsel, and representation of an attorney who knows how to fight for your rights and strive for the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Law and Process of Criminal Cases
- Pre-Arrest Investigation: Not all criminal defense cases begin with a pre-arrest investigation. In fact, most will start with the arrest. However, there are many cases where the defendant knows that he or she is being investigated before being arrested. If you are informed that you are being investigated for criminal charges, hire a criminal defense attorney right away.
- Arrest: If you are arrested, you are going to be put in handcuffs, read your Miranda Rights, and taken to a police station to be booked for the crime you were arrested for. They will take fingerprints, take a mug shot, and have you inspected by medical staff. You will then wait to be transferred to Bond Court, typically within 24 hours.
Your Miranda rights warn you that you have the right to not incriminate yourself, the right to be silent, and the right to have an attorney before being questioned about anything. The moment that you request an attorney, the police are no longer allowed to interrogate you until your lawyer arrives. This is important to avoid police abuse, though they do not apply to spontaneous admissions of guilt, outside of an interrogation. If your rights are violated, then your statements may be dismissed as evidence.
- Bond Hearing: The bond hearing occurs at Bond Court, where you face a Magistrate Judge to determine whether or not you should be released while charges are pending, whether you should have a bond, and how much that bond should be. There will be some evidence available to help the judge make these determinations, and the prosecution and the defense will have the opportunity to speak. You do not want to do this without a criminal defense attorney.
You have a right to have a lawyer present to speak on your behalf, and you are wise to exercise this right. The bond is the deposit that you must pay to be released from jail, directly paid to the court or paid by a bail bondsman with a 10% to 15% charge. If you have a bail bondsman, then he or she will pay the bond and be repaid when you fulfill your obligations.
If you pay the bond, then you will get the money back when you fulfill your obligations (showing up in court as required). The only way for a bail bondsman to get the money back if you do not fulfill your obligations is to come after you and find you.
- Preliminary Hearing: Many people don’t know about the preliminary hearing in a criminal case. You have a right to this hearing, but many will overlook it. Your criminal defense attorney should recommend that you exercise your right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of the bond hearing (required deadline), to force the prosecution to prove probable cause before proceeding with the criminal charges. This is your first opportunity to contest the case, and the judge may decide that the charges should be modified or dismissed.
- Negotiations: If your charges are not dismissed at the preliminary hearing, then you face the possibility of going to trial, but there is one more step before this that can save you from that experience. Most criminal court cases are resolved through negotiating a plea bargain, rather than actually going to trial. The prosecution and defense will negotiate this agreement so that both sides benefit from an agreed upon arrangement. Typically, the defendant will get a lesser charge and lesser punishment, while the prosecution benefits from a guaranteed conviction. Thus, both sides are no longer facing the risk of losing.
- Trial: If the case goes to trial, then there will be some steps beforehand, such as initial hearings, pre-trial conferences, extensive investigations, and exchanges of discovery. Trial does not typically occur until several months after the initial arrest. The trial may be a bench trial with a judge only or it may be a jury trial with a jury of your peers. The details of the case will determine which option is more advantageous. A General Sessions Court trial will involve 12 jurors, and a magistrate or municipal court case will involve six jurors.
Each side will present their argument during the trial to prove innocence or guilt, and then a guilty verdict can be appealed if you wish to continue to fight for your innocence.
- Sentencing: If you are found to be guilty during trial, then a separate sentencing phase will be conducted to determine what your punishment should be. This will be up to the judge, but it will be based on South Carolina criminal law.
- Appeals: If you are found guilty at trial, then you still have the right to appeal the verdict. This means that your criminal defense attorney can pursue all avenues of appealing the conviction, and it may take months or even years to go through this process. You will generally remain in jail during the appeals process, though some cases will allow for you to be released pending appeal. If this happens, then you may be confined to your home.
Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony
There are two categories of criminal charges, misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors carry less harsh penalties than felonies, which are much more serious crimes.
Misdemeanor crimes include things like shoplifting, vandalism, drunk driving, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, trespassing, possession of marijuana, and other similar crimes that are not as serious as felonies. Felony crimes include things like homicide, kidnapping, burglary, rape, armed robbery, serious assault, and other crimes that are more serious than misdemeanors.
Misdemeanors are also divided into Class A, B, and C crimes under South Carolina law. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious, punishable by as much as three years in jail; Class B misdemeanors are in the middle, punishable by up to two years in jail; and Class C misdemeanors are the least serious, punishable by up to one year in jail.
If you’ve been arrested for criminal charges in Myrtle Beach, SC, then you need to contact a criminal defense attorney (or request one) right away. Do not speak to the police without requesting an attorney. A good criminal defense lawyer in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will know how to take the necessary steps to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. Don’t face criminal charges alone. Contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible after an arrest, or when pre-arrest investigations are ongoing, as soon as you become aware of them.