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Defense in the South Carolina Courts Making Use of the State Grand Jury

Facing South Carolina State Grand Jury Prosecution?

Defense in the South Carolina Courts

Making use of the State Grand Jury

Facing South Carolina Grand Jury Prosecution?

The South Carolina State Grand Jury investigates criminal allegations and brings charges at the direction of the Attorney General’s office. It has the power to operate in all 46 counties. The current form of the state grand jury was created by the legislature in 1989.

The primary focus is on cases involving multiple jurisdictions, such as a criminal conspiracy spreading over multiple counties. They also target cases involving public corruption, such as misconduct in office, election fraud, environmental crimes, and securities fraud. Many cases may be referred from county solicitors, although the Attorney General’s office has the authority to initiate new cases on their own.

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There are many important differences between a typical General Sessions and a State Grand Jury case:

  • Your first contact with the system may be the receipt of a state grand jury subpoena. This means that you have been identified as either a potential suspect or someone with some knowledge pertaining to a criminal investigation.
  • Most criminal defendants in South Carolina are arrested after a Magistrate judge issues an arrest warrant. The prosecutor’s office has usually not been involved in the case at all up to that point. Grand jury cases are different, however. The prosecutor has been fully involved, meaning that by the time an arrest is made, they are already very prepared.
  • Because the arrest doesn’t occur until after an indictment has been issued, there is no right to a preliminary hearing (hearing to challenge probable cause).
  • Bond may be set higher than in other cases, and the judges may be more willing to put additional restrictions on defendants than otherwise would be routinely assigned in a regular county bond court. This may include prohibitions on employment, travel, firearms possession, and limiting access to financial accounts.
  • Pre-trial discovery rulings by the court may limit the defendant’s right to possess copies of the reports and other evidence documents turned over by the state (called discovery). Defendants may be required to review these materials only in their attorney’s office.
  • There is a record of state grand jury proceedings (unlike regular grand jury proceedings which are basically secret). The record is normally transcribed by a court reporter, and those transcripts can be obtained by the defense.
  • State grand jury cases are prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office, not the county solicitor. Different policies between those agencies may affect what defense strategies are employed, or what options there are to negotiate reductions in the severity of charges or sentencing.
  • Significantly more or higher-caliber resources may be expended by the state in the investigation and prosecution of state grand jury cases. Top state investigators, along with experts in fields such as forensic accounting or sciences will be utilized by the prosecution instead of just relying on the limited personnel of the local police department.

What to do if you receive a State Grand Jury Subpoena?

If you have received a subpoena to testify or provide documentation for any grand-jury proceeding it is important that you first consult with a criminal defense lawyer before you respond. Although receiving a subpoena almost always creates a legal obligation to respond in some fashion, how one chooses to do so may make the difference between facing criminal charges or not.

If you have received a subpoena to testify or provide records in a state grand jury proceeding, it is important that you consult with an attorney before meeting with any investigators, giving any statements, or testifying. You have many important rights, including the right to legal counsel and the right to remain silent.

The state grand jury is a tool of the Attorney General’s office to investigate and bring formal criminal charges. Everything the grand jury does is pertinent to a criminal investigation. They also do not investigate minor offenses, but instead focus on serious felonies and major misdemeanors.

Another pitfall comes when people who have been subpoenaed choose to meet with or talk with an investigator before they testify. Although everything you say can and may be used against you, investigators are not required to provide you with Miranda advisements prior to speaking to you on the phone or an informal conversation.

The first thing to know if you have received a subpoena is that you should not discuss your receipt of the subpoena with anyone; especially anyone that you feel could also be connected with the investigation. You also should not agree to meet with or talk to any investigator unless and until you are advised to do so by a criminal defense attorney. You also have a right to have an attorney accompany you to any grand jury proceeding, and to assist you with enforcing your rights including your right to remain silent.

Contact Us Today

South Carolina criminal defense attorney James Snell has experience in defending clients against a variety of white-collar, public corruption, drug, and other complex criminal charges. He has an extensive network of investigators and experts that can be incorporated into your case to locate, preserve, and present all necessary defense evidence. Representation is available for state grand jury cases in every South Carolina County.

We’re available to meet with individuals who have received a South Carolina Grand Jury subpoena, or who otherwise believe that they may be the target of an investigation. To schedule an appointment with our attorneys, call (803) 359-3301.

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