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What is a solicitor?

What is a solicitor?

Many people get confused when they try to do online research related to a pending South Carolina criminal charge. That’s because criminal laws are all very state-specific, and penalties and court-procedures can vary wildly from one state to the next.

One of the common things that trips people up is our use of the term solicitor. South Carolina is the only state that uses that term to refer to elected state-court prosecutors. In other areas the appropriate term would be district-attorney. And to make it even more confusing, when you research the term online you’ll get mostly content about the meaning in England, which is generally speaking a lawyer providing in-office services (such as estate planning or tax law).

Solicitors are elected as the chief prosecutor in individual judicial circuits. South Carolina has 16 separate judicial circuits, each comprised of two to five counties. As the head prosecutor, it is up to the elected solicitor to hire and supervise the individual prosecutors who work in their office. These prosecutors are usually called assistant solicitors.

Decades ago most solicitors were “hands on” and actively participated in the prosecution of individual cases. Nowadays most elected solicitors don’t directly involve themselves in individual cases, instead they devote their time to supervising the administrative side of their office.

The solicitor’s office typically prosecutes General Sessions level cases. They do not prosecute in city court, and in many counties they do not prosecute any cases in magistrate court either (in some counties they do prosecute DUI’s or domestic violence).

Solicitors also do not prosecute in federal court (that is handled by U.S. Attorneys).


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