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Criminal Defense Attorney in Lexington, SC

Understanding the Criminal Defense Process

What can I expect from the criminal defense process?

Providing an Aggressive Defense Against Your Charges

At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, we want to help you understand what to expect in the following months following a criminal charge. By understanding the South Carolina court processes relevant to your case, you can ensure that you remain in the best position possible to have your charges favorably resolved.
The criminal defense process is both complex and confusing. Most individuals who are under investigation feel overwhelmed by the judicial process and the activity that is taking place. If you do not know what to expect in your case, it is essential to talk to a lawyer who knows the penalties you could be facing. If you develop an understanding of not only the criminal process but also your own case, then you can be better prepared for the process. You will be able to make informed decisions and have confidence that you are doing everything in your power to get your charges lowered or dismissed. At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, our lawyers are prepared to provide you with a basic understanding of the criminal process.

Pre-Arrest Police Investigation

Some individuals are fortunate enough to know in advance that they are under investigation by law enforcement. This may come in the form of being accused of breaking the law or being contacted directly by the police. We recommend that anyone at this stage of the process remain silent, and not talk about their situation with their accuser, other individuals, or law enforcement. Everything said can and will be used against them later on.

Bond Court

After someone is arrested the police will transport them to the local detention center or jail. They will first be booked in. This will include being fingerprinted, having a mug shot taken, and being evaluated by jail medical staff. Usually, within 24 hours, they will be taken to Bond Court to appear in front of a Magistrate judge. The purpose of Bond Court is to determine if they will be allowed to be released from jail while the charges are pending. The judge will set any conditions on this release, usually involving the posting of a cash deposit with the court and other conditions to avoid contact with the alleged victim. The deposit, called a bond, can also be posted with the assistance of a bail bondsman.
Money paid to a bail bondsman is kept by them as their fee, even if the defendant goes to court as required. Money that is paid directly into the court is returned as long as the defendant fully complies with all the conditions of their bond. Defendants all have the right to be represented by an attorney in Bond Court. A lawyer can help persuade the judge to set a lower bond, which may save a significant amount of fees in the event that a bail bondsman is used to post the deposit with the court. In serious felony cases, it is almost always a good idea to retain an attorney to appear on the Defendant’s behalf at Bond Court. Our attorneys are available to appear in Bond Court anywhere in South Carolina, even in emergency situations.

Preliminary Hearing

Defendants who have cases pending in General Sessions are eligible to request a preliminary hearing. This must be done within ten days of the Bond Court date. A preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing conducted in front of a magistrate judge. This judge will determine if it is more likely than not that a crime occurred, and more likely than not that the defendant is the one responsible.
We believe that our client’s interest is best served by having a true adversarial hearing where a genuine challenge is made. Preliminary hearings are not only a chance to challenge arrests but also to have the investigator go “on the record” regarding what was and wasn’t done as part of the police investigation. This can be powerful information later on that can significantly aid the defense.
For this reason, if we are timely retained, we will submit the request for the preliminary hearing and will represent our client at such hearing as part of our standard defense services. At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge can either allow the charges to continue to General Sessions for prosecution, modify them, or dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Regardless of the decision made by the court at this stage, the Solicitor’s office is still allowed to prosecute the case if they choose to.

Initial Appearance

Defendants who have cases prosecuted in General Sessions will be given a first court appearance at Bond Court. This is called a first appearance in most counties. At the first appearance, the defendant will check in with the prosecutor’s office and will then be given a date to return called a follow-up appearance. The initial appearance is not a hearing date or a trial date. Defendants will not be appearing in front of a judge and will not be required to enter a plea or explain the circumstances of their arrest.
Everyone charged with a General Sessions offense should have retained a lawyer prior to their initial appearance date. Usually, the initial appearance can be handled in 30-45 minutes. In some counties, defendants can avoid having to go to their initial appearance if they have retained a lawyer. Appearances cannot currently be waived in Lexington or Richland Counties, but this may be possible in Spartanburg or Charleston.

Magistrate / Municipal Court Procedures

Misdemeanor cases prosecuted in Magistrate or Municipal Courts are handled differently than those in General Sessions. The initial date provided in Bond Court or written on a ticket is the trial date. Defendants who appear in court on that date are going to be expected to either plead guilty or face a trial by the judge (called a bench trial) right away. In most cases, we do not believe that our clients should plead guilty or face a bench trial at their initial court date.
By doing so defendants give up important legal rights, including the right to a pre-trial discovery and many other criminal defense techniques that can help result in a more favorable outcome to the charges. Typically, we will notify the court and prosecutor on our client’s behalf in advance of their court date that we are contesting and challenging the charges. This will result in the first court date being challenged. Our client will not be required to appear. This procedure is authorized by the South Carolina Supreme Court and is approved by every bail bondsman.
At the same time, we file the notice of a contested case, we will also file motions related to pre-trial discovery to obtain the evidence against our client. We also may file motions seeking to suppress evidence against our client such as drugs discovered by improper law enforcement techniques. The next event is usually a pre-trial conference held months after the initial “bench trial date”. Here without the threat of an imminent trial, we can discuss having the case resolved with the prosecutor such as a dismissal, plea bargain, or referral into pre-trial intervention (PTI). Otherwise, the case can be scheduled for a full trial.

Criminal Trial

All defendants in South Carolina who are charged with any criminal or traffic offense are entitled to a fully contested trial. We normally try all criminal cases in front of a jury. All jurors must unanimously determine the verdict. There are twelve jurors in General Sessions cases and six in Magistrate or Municipal Court cases. Cases are not normally scheduled for trial for several months or more after the initial arrest. Defendants have numerous important rights at their trial, and in fact, have more rights than the prosecutor or the judge. One of the roles of a defense attorney during the trial is to ensure that those rights are enforced and that the court and the jury are given reasons why the charges should either be dismissed, or a not-guilty verdict should be returned.

Other Steps

There are numerous other parts of the process that we can review with you during your initial consultation. These Include:
  • Pre-Trial Discovery - How we obtain the prosecutor’s evidence in advance of trial and use it to prepare an effective defense.
  • Negotiations – In some cases, it can be possible to negotiate a reduction in charges or sentence, to avoid having to go to trial.
  • Preliminary Motions – There can be occasions where it is necessary to have additional court hearings related to legal issues that can arise during a case. This might include motions to reduce bond, resolve discovery disputes with the prosecutor, enforce subpoenas issues, or suppress evidence against our client.
  • Appeals – Anyone convicted of a crime in South Carolina has the right to appeal. This right pertains to all types of charges, from simple traffic infractions to major felonies. We can discuss this right including appeals in Federal Court if necessary.

Understanding the Seriousness of Your Case

What to Expect When You Are Facing Charges in Lexington, SC
To fully understand the severity of your case, you should know the small details of the case and view it from the perspective of law enforcement. Law enforcement officials may be looking at the situation in an entirely different light than you. After you understand the situation and the intimate details of your case, it is easier to grasp how serious your case is perceived to be. It is also valuable to retain the help of a lawyer who can sift through each element of your case and give you a synopsis of what to expect.

Consulting Our Lexington Criminal Defense Lawyer

The most helpful aspect of going through your case is gaining a comprehensive understanding of the situation that you are experiencing. At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, we want to make sure that you are well-informed and prepared to take on your case. You do not want to go through this situation believing that your case is not a serious issue when law enforcement sees it in an entirely different light. As you brave through your criminal defense case, you will want to have a Lexington criminal defense lawyer by your side who is prepared to answer your questions.
It is also important that you ask the important questions that will make a difference in your case. You should be completely prepared for any situation you may encounter. The way to get informed and prepared to take on your case is by retaining the legal services of a Lexington criminal defense lawyer from our office. Our team can provide legal guidance and representation to individuals in Lexington, Columbia, and other cities and communities in South Carolina. Call today to schedule your case evaluation to begin fighting for the best possible results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of criminal defense matters do you offer representation for?

We represent clients in the defense of criminal charges in all South Carolina Federal and State level courts. This includes all Federal Courts, Magistrate Courts, Municipal Courts, General Sessions, and juvenile proceedings in the Family Court. We also provide services in criminal appeals, pardons, and post-conviction relief (PCR) proceedings.

Do you offer free consultations?

We offer free in-person consultations in our office located in downtown Lexington, South Carolina, for criminal defense matters. To schedule your consultation please contact our office by calling (803) 359-3301 or contacting us through this site. Initial consultations are provided on a confidential and legally privileged basis. You will have a chance to meet with an attorney to discuss your case and to ask any questions that you may have. Please bring copies of your arrest paperwork (ticket(s), warrant(s), bond paperwork, etc.) with you to the appointments.

How much will it cost to hire this office for my case?

Criminal defense services are unique for each client. We will set a fee for your case after we have had an opportunity to discuss the specifics of your case during the initial consultation. There is no set fee for your type of charge. Generally, the fee will take into account the level of charge, the complexity of the facts, the nature of the required investigation, whether there are unusual legal issues involved, and the likelihood of whether your case will result in a trial, dismissal, plea-bargain, or entrance into a diversion program such as pre-trail intervention (PTI). Although we are not the least expensive criminal defense firm, every effort is made to charge a reasonable fee based on the amount of work that will go into your case.

If the police want to ask me questions, what should I do?

If you are suspected of being involved in a crime, you should never talk to the police without first consulting with a Lexington criminal defense attorney. You have an absolute right not to agree to meet with the police or speak with them. We can help you determine how best to respond to a police investigation and can instruct the police on your behalf to direct all further questions or correspondence to our office. There are several dangers to agreeing to meet with or speak to the police. Anything you say, or anything the police want to say that you said, can be repeated in Court and used as evidence against you. Both written and verbal statements can be used against you in Court.

If someone is arrested, how can they be released on bond?

Soon after someone has been arrested, usually within 24 hours or less, they will be taken before a Magistrate judge for a bond hearing. The judge will consider the defendant's background and prior criminal history, along with the present allegations in determining what the bond amount will be. If a personal recognizance bond is set, then the person can sign themselves out of jail. If a cash bond is set then the defendant has to post that amount with the Court or hire a bail bondsman to post it for them. Cash that is deposited directly with the Court may be returned at the end of the case. Fees paid to a bail bondsman are generally non-refundable as they are the bondsman’s payment. Jail discharge procedures take time, so it may be 4 to 5 hours after bond Is posted before someone is actually released.

How do I determine if my charges are a misdemeanor or a felony?

In South Carolina, it is not always easy to determine if charges are misdemeanor or felony level. Generally, all charges that are referred to the Magistrate or Municipal Court are misdemeanors. Felonies are always referred to the General Sessions Court. Some serious misdemeanors are still referred to General Sessions and may allow for a possible sentence of up to ten years. During the initial consultation, we will make sure that we review whether the specific charge our client is facing is a misdemeanor or a felony.

If the police did not read me my rights does that mean that my charges will be dropped?

Not necessarily. The only criminal offense in South Carolina that ordinarily requires the reading of Miranda rights is driving under the influence. Otherwise, Miranda is only relevant to whether or not post-arrest statements made by a defendant will be allowed into evidence at trial. If your statements are a significant part of the evidence against you, the fact that Miranda was not read could result in those statements not being allowed as evidence in your case. This could result in a dismissal, reduction in charges, or a not-guilty verdict at trial.

If I just want to plead guilty and get it over with, why should I hire a lawyer?

Many people mistakenly think that if they are guilty, their case is hopeless and that there is nothing that can be done to help them. This is not true. A criminal defense attorney can help you determine what the potential penalties will be for pleading guilty. Some crimes come with mandatory jail sentences or driver’s license suspension. Oftentimes, a lawyer can help negotiate a reduced charge, a lesser sentence, or entrance into a diversionary program. Finally, we can help review your case with you to determine if you would have grounds to challenge a police search or interrogation technique that could result in evidence against you not being allowed at trial. Always consult with a Lexington criminal defense attorney before going to court.

I have heard about pre-trial intervention (PTI). Is this a good program for me?

Pre-trial Intervention is a diversion program that is run by each Solicitor’s office in South Carolina. Cases are referred to the program by agreement of both the prosecutor as well as the defendant. Both misdemeanor and felony cases may be allowed into PTI. Defendants who complete the program will have their charges dismissed and the record of the arrest removed. To qualify for PTI you must have never attempted the program before in South Carolina or any other state. You must also have a minimal prior criminal record. PTI can be a great option for many defendants. Unfortunately, it is not automatically offered by the prosecution, even for those with no prior record and only more minor charges.

Can I use real estate to pay for legal services?

In certain circumstances, you may be able to use real estate to assist in paying for legal services. Normally this would only be for situations involving major felony defense with substantial legal fees (such as cases involving murder, manslaughter, or felony child abuse). The real estate would need to be free and clear of any liens, mortgages, and judgments, or have significant equity. We recommend that prior to using real estate, you consider all other types of payment options and that you consult with an independent lawyer or licensed real estate broker. Normally when real estate is used for payment of criminal defense services it is titled out of your name and is then held in a form of "escrow" on your and the lawyer's behalf until the conclusion of the case. After that point, the property would then be eligible to be utilized or sold by the lawyer. In the alternative to "trading" your real estate for legal fees, you can also consider utilizing a bank or private lender to loan you money while taking out a mortgage on your property. You would then continue to own the property and could make long-term payments to the lender. This is the method of utilizing real estate for payment of legal services while allowing you continued possession and ownership. In addition, there are procedures available to use real estate to post bond. This means that real estate can be used as an alternative to hiring a bail bondsman or posting cash with the court.

Contact Us Today

As you can see, there are many steps involved in defending a South Carolina criminal charge. By taking advantage of the legal procedures available, you can position your case in a way that gives you the best chance at a favorable outcome. Delays in seeking legal representation can sometimes result in lost opportunities that can lead to unfair and unjust results. We offer free initial consultations to anyone under investigation for or charged with a criminal offense in South Carolina.
To schedule your appointment, contact our office today. Although we are located in downtown Lexington, we accept cases throughout South Carolina including Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston, and Columbia.
Criminal charges are urgent and deserve urgent attention. If you need a criminal defense attorney in Lexington, SC, contact our office. We can frequently offer same-day appointments, and once retained immediately go to work.

Former Clients' Experiences

  • “When we went to court, it went just like he said that it would, and now I do not have a CDV on my record.”

    Former Client

  • “The entire process from beginning to end left me with a high level of reassurance and relief.”

    Stu W.

  • “Responsive, caring staff!”

    E&A

  • “The customer service is the greatest I've personally seen within a law office”

    Ben N.

  • “Outstanding”

    Former Client

  • Best of Lexington Life for 2020
  • Super Lawyers
  • Lawyer.com Premium Rating
  • 10.0 Superb Avvo Rating - Top Attorney Criminal Defense
  • Better Business Bureau - Accredited Business
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Top 100 Trial Lawyers - The National Trial Lawyers
  • 10.0 Superb Avvo Rating - Top Attorney DUI

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