South Carolina Criminal Process FAQs
Facing your first criminal charge brings with it confusion, fear and uncertainty. These feelings, along with unfamiliarity with the South Carolina criminal system, lead to numerous questions. Our hope is that we can address some of your immediate questions here. Should you need further answers or require additional help, we encourage you to call our Summerville-based criminal defense lawyer at (843) 261-7026 or to send our law firm an email for your free client-centered consultation.
Can I get a temporary license?
South Carolina makes several temporary licenses available to defendants, depending on their situations. If you lose your license due to Habitual Offender Statute, your goal is to stay ticket free for the suspension period and then call me. We can assist you with an appeal to hopefully get your driving privileges restored. If you have a suspended license, we can work with you on getting that restored. It may be something complicated, or an easy fix.
Temporary Alcohol Restricted Licenses (TARLs) are available to people who have been charged with a DUI. The license is valid within the state. However, you may not drive anywhere other than South Carolina.
A Provisional License is another type of temporary license that is available after you plead guilty to a DUAC (Driving with Unlawful Alcohol Concentration), enroll in a required ADSAP course and obtain SR-22 insurance (extra car insurance). A Route Restricted License may also be appropriate in certain cases. The license gives defendants permission to drive to and from work.
The important thing is to talk with your attorney about getting a temporary license as soon as possible. There is only a limited amount of time to get a temporary license. If you do not act quickly, you lose the opportunity.
Can I travel while I'm being charged?
After you have been arrested and released on bond, a great deal of time may pass before the matter is completely resolved. You may wonder if you are allowed to travel. The answer depends on your situation and the conditions on your bond.
Many defendants are usually released on something called a “personal recognizance bond,” which means that they promise to show up to future court dates. If the judge determines that a defendant is likely to miss court appearances or pose a danger to the community, the judge may place certain conditions on the defendant’s release. These include limits on where the defendant can travel. The best way to ensure that you can travel after you are released is to have a lawyer protect your rights at the bond hearing.
I am an out-of-state resident. How will that affect my license?
The answer to this question varies depending on the charge in front of you. For instance, if you are charged with a DUI while visiting or travelling through South Carolina, your home state can choose to revoke your driver’s license. This is due to the fact that South Carolina is a member of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact, meaning it willingly will share confirmed violations and ongoing charges across state lines. You may also face conviction for charges in South Carolina, which could lead to even further hardship there and back home.
Your best bet is to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after you are charged with a crime. That lawyer should be able to advise on all options you face, both here and in your home state.
My job requires me to leave the state. Can I leave?
If you posted a bond, you must comply with the conditions on the bond that were set by the court or the bail bondsman. This may include limits on where you can travel. If you need to travel for work, your lawyer might be able negotiate conditions with the bail bondsman and/or prosecutor to allow you to leave the state.
Will my charge or charges affect my security clearance or professional license?
The granting or renewal of a security clearance depends on many factors, including your overall character, trustworthiness and reliability. An arrest or conviction will not necessarily disqualify you from receiving a security clearance. However, it can call your character into question and lead to a denial or revocation.
A professional license can certainly be affected by a criminal charge. Beyond the loss of driving privileges or liberty (jail), you may not be able to keep your license. Many professional licenses require you to have a clean criminal record. It is important to seek quality representation to defend you on any charge.
What should I expect at court for a first appearance?
For most defendants in South Carolina, the first court appearance other than the bond hearing is at “roll call.” Many jurisdictions in South Carolina have an appearance tracking system. This required appearance is set within 45 days of arrest, and its primary purpose is to confirm that you have access to a lawyer and plan to appear at trial. At the appearance, the prosecutor or judge will ask you and your lawyer some questions about your case. Your attorney can file what is called a Rule 5 to gather information concerning your case. The prosecutor and your lawyer may exchange discovery and will discuss scheduling and trial dates. Showing up is critical. If you miss this hearing, the prosecuting authority will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
Do I have to tell my employer about my arrest?
Each situation is different. You probably do not need to tell your employer about your arrest unless you are subject to additional licensing requirements, have signed an employment contract that requires you to disclose an arrest, or drive for a living and have been arrested for DUI. Consult with your attorney before making this decision so you can fully to evaluate your options.
Do I have to tell my employer about my conviction?
Just like we said above: Each situation is different. You may not need to tell your current employer about a conviction unless professional requirements or a contract require you to. Still, you may be required to disclose the conviction to future employers. That’s why it’s a good idea to fight the charges with the help of a skilled attorney.
Will the charge affect my employment?
Yes, charges may affect your employment. Some background searches do show pending charges, so a potential employer could find out about pending charges – even if you have not been convicted. Some jobs require a background check when your employment is renewed. Sometimes this review can occur yearly, or every several years, in order to determine your future employment. If your employer is aware of your arrest, you will certainly want to find out what options may be available to you to make sure you maintain your employment and/or security clearance.
My loved one's in jail. Can I get them out?
When getting a loved one out of jail, start by calling a criminal defense attorney at our firm. We can walk you through the process and make sure that your loved one’s rights are protected. You will need to raise money for a bond. Bond is usually 10% down of the total bond set. For example, if your loved one’s bond is $200,000 you would need to make arrangements to deposit $20,000 with the bond company.
Do I get my money back if I post bond?
The short answer is usually no. The bond company that issues the bond assumes the risk that you will appear. Speak with the bonding company about your options. If you post through the court, you may be able to get these monies back.
What if I cannot afford the bond?
If you cannot afford the bond, you may be eligible for a bond reduction. Your lawyer can schedule a bond reduction hearing in order to negotiate the reduction for your bond.
What should I wear to court?
You should dress nicely and conservatively, but you don’t have to wear a suit. If you’re a man, a shirt with a collar, pants with a crease and shoes with a shine are recommended. If you’re a woman, try professional attire suitable for an office setting. You MAY NOT wear open-toed shoes or carry a cell phone with you in court.
What is the bonding process?
There are several methods of posting bond available in South Carolina. Usually, your lawyer or a bonding company will deposit bail with the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court then issues a release letter. Your lawyer or bonding company can take the letter to the detention center to get your loved one released.
If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?
You can always plead guilty. You don’t need a lawyer to do that. However, pleading guilty isn’t the best option. It can affect you for years to come in ways that you never anticipated. Even if you are considering pleading guilty, it is a good idea to talk with an attorney so that you know exactly how your guilty plea will affect you.
What is the difference between parole and probation?
Parole is granted upon release from incarceration, and it requires you to follow certain terms and conditions. Probation is a period of testing you for good behavior under supervision. It doesn’t require that you’ve been incarcerated first.
Should I talk to the police?
It is estimated that many individuals currently serving time in South Carolina are there because they failed to exercise their Constitutional right to remain silent. It’s never a good idea to talk with the police without your lawyer present. Get your lawyer on the phone immediately, and speak with him or her about your options.
Can I get my property and or money returned to me?
You have been arrested. Possibly you were charged with a drug offense. If that is the case, the arresting officer may seize any property they believe may associated with drug sales or illegal activity. This could be cash, guns, personal property, and even the very car you are driving. If your property was seized as evidence, you will not generally have access to it while your case is pending. If your case is resolved favorably, your attorney may be able to have these properties returned to you.