Were you or a family member charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor in Circuit Court, Magistrate Court or City Court? DUI, robbery, drug charges, or murder, our lawyers are available to review your criminal charges and possible defenses.
We have extensive experience in the practice of criminal law handling practically all types of criminal cases, including Murder, Armed Robbery, Burglary, Criminal Sexual Conduct, Larceny, Drug Offenses, Assault & Battery, DUI and many others. Our defense work has lead to many successful resolutions including one case that went to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Should I hire a lawyer?
Once charged with a criminal offense, it’s important that you hire an experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible. This is the case regardless of whether it’s an offense triable in Magistrate’s Court, City Court, or Circuit Court. Our office has the experience you need. Furthermore, we are not afraid to see your case to the Court of Appeals or the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Should you talk to the police?
Each situation is different and there may be times that talking to the police might be helpful. However, as a general rule, it is a bad idea to talk to the police or give a statement without legal counsel present. If you are under arrest, even if the police have yet to charge you, you may be ‘in custody’. The police are detaining you. Therefore, the police must advise you of your Miranda rights before they can question you. You have the right to remain silent. In most cases, you should remain silent. If the police question you, then the best response is to ask for a lawyer before you say anything else.
What happens if you can’t afford a lawyer
If you have little or no income, then you can apply for a free lawyer. If you qualify, then an attorney from the public defender’s office will represent you. The attorneys in the public defender’s office are good attorneys. However, they have a very large caseload and might not be able to give your case the attention that you think it needs. If you or your family can put together enough money to hire an attorney, then you should do so.
Aren’t “big city” lawyers better?
The simple answer is no. A local lawyer is likely to know the local system a lot better than a lawyer from out of town.
Do you need a preliminary hearing?
If charged with an offense triable in General Sessions Court, the law entitles you to a preliminary hearing. However, you only have 10 days from your date of arrest to request a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is a ‘probable cause’ hearing. At these hearings, the court does not allow a defendant to testify, to call witnesses or to present any evidence. Therefore, a preliminary hearing has limited value.
Those entitled to a preliminary hearing should always request one. However, let your attorney decide whether to have the hearing or review the hearing. Most of the time, your lawyer will be able to get all other information he needs by filing the appropriate discovery motions. If you do not have an attorney, then the preliminary hearing will most likely not do you any good. Don’t expect the court to dismiss your case at the preliminary hearing. However, occasionally, it does happen. In these cases, a good lawyer knows when a “preliminary” hearing may do some good and when it will not.
A Word About Bond
If a Magistrate signed your warrant, then your bond will be set by a Magistrate. If a City Judge signed your warrant, then your bond will be set by a City Judge. However, if charged with a crime where the maximum sentence is life in prison, such as murder, burglary in the first degree or Criminal Sexual Conduct with a minor in the first degree, then your bond must be set by a Circuit judge. In these events, you will need a lawyer to file a motion for bond and take you in front of a Circuit Court Judge.
Whether your bond is set by a City Judge, a Magistrate or a Circuit Court Judge, the court uses various factors to decide whether you are a flight risk and/or whether you are a danger to society. Normally, a person would not be a flight risk if he or she has substantial ties to the local community. This may include family and/or a job. A person may be considered a flight risk if he or she is from out of state and has no local ties. The court may consider a person to be a danger to the community based upon the seriousness of the offense and the person’s prior record.
This does not necessarily mean that bond would or should be denied. Instead, it only means that the bond would be in a higher amount. If the Magistrate or City Judge sets a high bond, then a lawyer can file a motion with the Circuit Court asking the Circuit Court Judge to reduce your bond. Therefore, if you or a loved one is in jail and a high bond has been set, a lawyer may be able to get the bond reduced.
Can You Help Me with My Bond Hearing?
If you have been charged and need a bond set or reduced, then I would be glad to consider taking your case. However, I do not take cases for the limited purpose of a bond hearing. I have found that taking a case for the limited purpose of a bond hearing usually has an unsatisfactory result. There are so many factors involved in properly handling a criminal case. Consequently, you can’t just take a case for a limited purpose.
One final word — While nobody wants to stay in jail, it is unwise to spend all of your money on bond and have nothing left over to hire a lawyer.
DUI – To Blow or Not To Blow
If you are charged with DUI, you will be offered a breath test to determine the amount of alcohol in your system. The breath machine is called a Datamaster. You will be taken into a room where the machine is located. The entire procedure will be videotaped, so be careful what you say or do. Getting into an argument with the officer is the last thing you want to do. You will have the choice to take the breath test or not. If you do not take the test, your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days for not taking the test. However, under the current DUI law, your license will be suspended if you blow .16 or higher. In addition, if you are convicted of DUI, the penalty goes up for higher breath readings. Therefore, if you really only had 2 beers, then take the test. If you had more than you can remember, don’t take the test. For anything in between, you’re probably better off not taking the test.
Important Dates to Remember
If you are charged with an offense triable in General Sessions Court, then you will be given a notice when you get out of jail that informs you of the date and time of your first appearance and your second appearance. First appearances are always at 9 am and second appearances are always at 2 pm. If you did not appear for your first appearance, then the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Likewise, you must also appear for your second appearance. Also, when your case is put on the trial docket, you must appear on the first day of court. You will then receive instructions as to when to return. If you have a lawyer, then your lawyer will let you know when to be back for court.
Stay in Touch
A Gaffney criminal defense attorney from Winter & Rhoden LLC would be happy to represent you. We will let you know when to come to court after your first and second appearances. However, if you don’t let us know that your address or phone number has changed, we can’t get in touch with you. Keep in contact by calling (864) 489-8128 or filling out our confidential online contact form.