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Lexington County General Sessions

Are you facing a felony charge in Lexington County? If so, your case will be prosecuted in General Sessions. The court is located in the Lexington County Judicial Center, 205 East Main Street. You know if this applies to you if you received a “first appearance” date while you were in bond court.

If you or a loved one is facing a Lexington, SC criminal prosecution, you’ve come to the right place for help.

What type of offenses are prosecuted in General Sessions?

General Sessions is South Carolina’s court of unlimited criminal jurisdiction. This means that it has jurisdiction over the most serious criminal cases. Although this technically includes any criminal offense, only higher-penalty charges are referred to this court.

Examples of General Sessions offenses include:

General Sessions also hears probation violation.

Serious charges from offenses committed anywhere in Lexington County are heard here. This includes arrests by the Sheriff’s Department, SLED, Highway Patrol, Town of Lexington, Irmo, Cayce, West Columbia, or other municipality. Even the City of Columbia has a small presence in Lexington County after incorporating areas near the Harbison area.

Who prosecutes these cases?

All cases in General Sessions are prosecuted by professional prosecutors. These will either be employees of the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, or the Attorney General’s Office.

Unlike traffic court or magistrate court, cases are not prosecuted by the arresting police officer. In fact, the arresting officer does not have authority to make decisions as whether a dismissal or plea bargain will be offered. That authority rests solely with the prosecuting attorney.

Is it possible to have charges dropped or reduced?

Yes. It is possible that any criminal case could be dropped, reduced, or successfully challenged in court.

While no one can guarantee any specific outcome, we have learned that a complete investigation into the facts and legal aspects of an arrest, combined with the availability of an aggressive courtroom defense, can result in outcomes not first thought possible.

Our policy is to recommend that in the event criminal charges are not dismissed, that our clients never accept any plea bargain that they do not feel is in their best interest.

About the Law Office of James R. Snell., Jr. LLC

We have significant continued involvement in the defense of criminal charges in the Lexington County Court of General Sessions.

Our job is to assist our clients in obtaining a dismissal of criminal charges whenever possible. We also can, with our client’s consent, assist in obtaining a reduction in charge or sentence when a dismissal is not available. Although no lawyer can ever promise an outcome, our rule is that we want to fight for every client whose charges are not dismissed or reduced to their satisfaction.

We regularly use private investigators to challenge the government’s assumption of the facts of a case. Over the years we’ve seen counteless examples of evidence or witnesses who were ignored or missed by the original police investigation, but once located are significant tot the defense. We have relationships with other types of experts that can be incorporated as needed, including in fields such as trauma medicine, child abuse, psychology, false confessions and more.

We’ve found that no case is hopeless. Whether our client is falsely accused, or just deserves a second chance, there is always help that can be provided.

Case Timelines

There are many steps involved in a case at this level. Because the court procedures and rules are designed to handle the most serious offenses, cases and decisions can be made much slower than in a lower-level court.

Our lawyers can begin representing individuals at any-point during the process. We are regularly hired at the very onset, either before an arrest is made or prior to bond court. If you need help with your case contact us at (803) 359-3301. These charges are urgent, and we want to begin work right away.

  1. Bond Court

After an arrest defendants are taken to Bond Court at the Lexington County Detention Center. This is located next to the jail at 521 Gibson Road, Lexington. A magistrate judge will advise them of the charges against them, and review with them their rights. Bond will be set, either a personal recognizance (get out for free), or a surety bond (post money or hire a bondsman). After any required bond is posted a defendant will be released, usually in 2-4 hours.

  1. Preliminary Hearing

In Bond Court defendants who are being referred to General Sessions will be advised of their right to a preliminary hearing. This is a probable cause hearing held in front of a county magistrate. It is to determine if the evidence supports the charge that has been brought. In order to obtain a preliminary hearing you must file the request within ten days of Bond Court. Normally then a preliminary hearing will be scheduled within 30-90 days for county charges.

  1. First Appearance

Defendants will also be advised of their first appearance date in Bond Court. Normally this will be on a Thursday morning at 9:00 A.M. First appearances are not actual court events. Instead they are “roll call” procedures where defendants are required to check in. It is not usual for hundreds of defendants to all try to report at the same time for their appearance. Bench warrants are routinely issued for defendant’s who fail to appear.

We recommend that our clients try to arrive earlier than the scheduled start time. By 9:00 A.M. there is usually no parking, and there can be a line out the door to get checked in by security. We also arrive early for appearances to help our clients get checked in and out as quickly as possible. Often times we have our clients checked-in and free to leave before 9:00 A.M. so that they can go to work or school.

  1. Second and Follow-Up Appearances

Defendants will receive a notice of a second appearance during their first appearance. These operate very similarly to a first appearance, except they are normally held on a Friday. We also encourage our clients to arrive early, as these can be more crowded and hectic than the first appearance dates.

  1. Plea Dates

Most cases in General Sessions are resolved in one of three ways.

  1. Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). This is not a guilty plea, but instead is a diversion program. Defendants who are referred, and agree to participate, can have their charges dismissed after completing community service and other requirements. PTI should be considered whenever it is an option, but may not always be the best option. This is especially true for those with no prior record who were planning on enlisting in the military.
  1. Dismissal by the Prosecutor. Prosecutors have the legal authority to dismiss any criminal charge. Many times arrests are made by law enforcement with no or only a very limited investigation. When the defense is able to uncover additional evidence or witnesses which show that the allegations were false or unfair it can result in prosecutors dismissing the case.
  1. Plea bargains. Prosecutors also make plea offers, in which charges can be reduced, dismissed (if there are multiple charges), or there can be an opportunity for a reduced sentence. A defendant has to agree to plead guilty, and should only accept a plea bargain if they believe it is in their best interest to do so.

When a defendant chooses to plead guilty the case will be scheduled for a plea date. Sometimes prosecutors will also automatically assign a plea date as a follow-up appearance. If the case isn’t worked out by then, or a defendant chooses not to plead guilty, the case can be rescheduled for another plea date or trial.

There is no difference in the outcome of a case or sentence between a guilty plea or no contest plea.

There can be other resolutions, including dismissals when the grand jury fails to return an indictment, or when a judge dismisses a case for a significant legal reason. However most cases will be resolved through either PTI, dismissal by the prosecutor, or a guilty plea.

  1. Trial Dates

Trial is where witnesses testify from the witness stand, and a jury decides if someone is guilty or not-guilty. Cases at this level are not automatically scheduled for trial until the prosecutor determines that it will be required. Normally defendants receive several weeks, or more, of prior notice before their case is set for trial.

Trials are conducted only for defendants who have rejected any plea offers. Lexington County only conducts approximately 23-25 General Sessions trials per year, so this is now the exceptions rather than the rule. Priority for scheduling trials is normally provided to incarcerated defendants or in situations where there is pressing interest in concluding a case.

We believe that trial should always be considered by those who are falsely accused, or for any other reason don’t believe that a guilty plea is in their best interest. Although often times we have obtained dismissals and favorable reductions without cases having to go to trial, our lawyers do have significant courtroom experience including the trial of murder, child molestation, drug trafficking, drug distribution, rape, burglary, armed robbery, and other very serious offenses.

Contact us today!

James R. Snell, Jr., believes that everyone accused or charged with a crime deserves the best legal representation possible. Our entire office works hard to ensure that our client’s rights and interests are protected. If you are ready to get help for your case or for a loved one, contact us today at (803) 359-3301.


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