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Berkeley County SC Criminal Defense Law Blog

The basics of criminal defense: What to do when you get to court

So, you are facing criminal charges in the state of South Carolina. You have been summoned to a courthouse for a hearing or other legal proceeding regarding your criminal defense case. What do you do? If this is your first time entering a criminal courtroom, you may not feel fully prepared to go through the process. Today, we provide you with the basic tips and information to help you get ready for your day before a judge.

Planning to go to court is not always an easy task. First, if you have kids, you should find someone to care for them while you are in court. Make sure that you set aside at least three hours for your trip to the courtroom; in some cases, the court may be crowded and cases may take some time to process. You should also be certain to bring all of the documentation and paperwork related to your case with you at the time of the court hearing, along with a pen or pencil and a pad of paper. You may be required to take notes about upcoming court dates -- or you could just find the materials useful for taking notes about your case.

Court: Juvenile crimes do not warrant jury trials

The right to a jury trial is a privilege that extends to all South Carolina residents, right? Not so fast. According to a recent ruling out of the state's Supreme Court, juveniles in South Carolina are not entitled to a jury trial. The decision upheld existing legal code, which requires juvenile crimes cases to be heard in a special family court.

Advocates say that the current system allows children to experience a less-punitive system than that presented by an adult court. Further, the jury trial process is far more expensive and time-consuming for both the municipality and the family. Ultimately, the lack of a right to a jury trial simply reflects the inherent differences between the adult and juvenile law systems, according to experts in the field.

Domestic violence laws could unfairly target minor offenders

South Carolina's domestic violence statistics are among the most alarming in the nation. Did you know that the state is the worst in the country when considering the number of women who are murdered by men? Domestic violence admittedly plays a role in many of these deaths. Lawmakers have made some proposals to help improve the situation, but so far, little progress has been made to limit these troubling trends. In all, 61 women were killed by men in 2011; that year provides some of the most recent comprehensive crime statistics.

Those who are facing domestic violence charges should know that the maximum bond for a first-time arrest is $5,000. In other words, a man who is accused of physical violence against his wife or another female family member may be able to get out of jail for as little as $500. Some legislators are trying to increase the size of the automatic bond. They say this move would make sense, considering the number of men who make bail for domestic violence charges and are then re-arrested for murder.

Driver enters Alford plea for fatal DUI accident

An area driver is facing up to a 15-year prison sentence in connection with a fatal drunk driving accident that occurred in Fort Mill, South Carolina, in early 2014. The Jan. 31 collision killed a 74-year-old Charlotte woman, according to official reports. The defendant in this case has chosen to enter an Alford plea. That is a special type of plea in which a defendant acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict, but the defendant does not expressly admit guilt for the DUI charge.

The man, who lives in North Carolina, was charged with felony driving under the influence involving death, according to news reports. He says that he does not remember the incident, but he has admitted to officers that he was drinking on the night of the collision. The crash, which also involved a third vehicle, happened at about 6:45 a.m. near Fort Mill on U.S. 21. The man apparently smashed into the rear end of a vehicle that was stopped with another car on the side of the road. The impact caused those two cars to collide, ultimately leading to fatal injuries for the older victim.

Man with significant domestic violence history arrested again

A 38-year-old man is facing criminal charges after he allegedly attacked his wife in Kershaw County, South Carolina. The defendant is accused of domestic violence, allegedly inflicting slash and stabbing wounds on his wife on July 9. He was taken into custody when authorities found him intoxicated and unconscious in the couple's Elgin home.

The victim in the case was transported to an area hospital, where she received treatment and remained under observation the day after the counter. She had reportedly frantically called 911, and emergency responders found the woman walking down the street near her home. She was bleeding and had suffered some blunt force trauma.

Former university official convicted of felonies

The former chairman of a South Carolina university board has been convicted of racketeering in federal court. The man was found guilty on 29 of a total of 45 felony counts during his trial, though he was acquitted of the other 16. The man had faced criminal allegations after he reportedly received kickbacks while serving in an influential position at South Carolina State University.

Official reports show that the most serious charge in the case was the racketeering allegation. The jury in the case determined that the defendant had overseen a massive operation that involved at least six other people and a total of four questionable money-making enterprises. The man was accused of receiving kickbacks when he chose to hire his close friends to provide music for a homecoming concert in 2011. The man was also implicated in a plan to skew a bid for the sale of a 121-acre tract of land. He was reportedly given a Porsche Cayenne SUV for his assistance in that matter.

5 arrested for role in alleged methamphetamine drug crimes

Five South Carolina defendants are facing federal allegations in connection with drug and firearms crimes. The group, ranging in age from 24 to 45, have been charged with a several drug crimes, including conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. They are also accused of conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of the substance, according to news reports. Four of the defendants are also accused of possessing firearms in order to further their drug trafficking operation.

Authorities say that their investigation had been part of a multidisciplinary task force that included representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, along with officers from Georgia and several other South Carolina agencies. Officers from those groups first arrested four of the defendants in late April. Those defendants were reportedly found in possession of more than two pounds of methamphetamine, along with several illegal guns. One of those defendants is accused of being a felon in possession of a gun.

South Carolina sheriff facing criminal allegations for bribery

A South Carolina sheriff has been indicted on federal charges after he apparently perpetrated a series of abuses because of his official status. The man, who has served as the longtime sheriff of Lexington County, has been suspended from his position because of the felony criminal allegations. A grand jury inquiry determined that the 68-year-old man may have accepted bribes and interfered with detention procedures for certain illegal immigrants being held at a local jail.

The defendant categorically denies his involvement in any wrongdoing. Attorneys say that the man intends to fight the 10-count federal indictment, which has cleared the way for his prosecution for the charges in federal court. Other officials in the county say they are disappointed that the charges have been issued, calling the situation "a sad set of circumstances" for one of the longest-running sheriffs in the state.

South Carolina trustee on trial for white collar crimes

A former trustee at South Carolina State University is on trial for public corruption charges after he allegedly committed financial indiscretions while at his post. The man was targeted for the white collar crimes after an investigation into another man, who also served as a trustee with the defendant from 2008 to 2012. That person pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Defense attorneys in the case say that the man did not profit at all from the alleged financial violations, which include fraud and racketeering. Prosecutors allege that the man attempted to convince the university to purchase land from an out-of-state developer; in exchange, he would have received a vehicle from that business owner. Further, the man is accused of taking money from a government funded project and submitting false paperwork to a federal agency.

South Carolina driver facing DUI charge after pedestrian crash

A South Carolina driver is facing criminal allegations after he reportedly ran down a pedestrian who was walking along a Spartanburg County road. The defendant is accused of felony DUI in connection with the incident. He is being held in custody because he was denied bond on June 7. A circuit court judge could still decide to grant the defendant a bond, though that will not occur until a later date.

Authorities report that the 40-year-old driver was traveling south on Chesnee Highway at about 1:20 a.m. on June 7 when his vehicle ran into a 46-year-old pedestrian. Investigators believe that the defendant's vehicle strike caused the victim to be launched into the northbound lane; there, he was hit by two other vehicle. None of the drivers suffered injury in the collision.