Criminal Defense Lawyers in Columbia Helping You Fight Criminal Charges
No one is perfect, but when your mistakes get you in trouble with the law, it can mean serious trouble for your future. In South Carolina, the criminal court system is responsible for hearing cases involving criminal charges. This can range from the seemingly mundane, such as petty theft or driving under the influence of alcohol, all the way up to white-collar crimes like fraud and violent offenses, including rape and murder.
If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to think about your future. Criminal defense attorneys can help you understand the charges against you, help you prepare a strong defense strategy, and guide you through each step of the process. Whether you are facing criminal charges or you’re doing research for someone you love, we provide an overview of what criminal defense is and answer common questions we get from our clients.
If you’re looking for a South Carolina criminal defense attorney with a strong track record to take on your case and represent your interests, the law firm of Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, can help. Our office offers a free consultation so you can get a better idea of how we work, what our services are, and whether our team is a good fit for your needs.
What Does a South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
South Carolina criminal defense lawyers are responsible for providing legal representation to those charged with a crime. Two of the main functions of a criminal defense attorney are discussed below.
Help You Understand Your Charges
Before you can start to cooperate with your attorney and devise a defense strategy for your case, you first need to understand your charge. This is where an attorney can prove very valuable. They can help explain exactly what the charge is, what evidence the police may have against you, the pros and cons of the different defense options, and what possible penalties, such as jail time, you could face if convicted. Ideally, you want to talk to an attorney who has a proven track record of success when it comes to defending cases similar to yours.
Represent Your Interests
Everything else a criminal defense attorney does falls into the category of representing your best interests. An attorney advocates for your rights throughout the legal process, from arraignment to sentencing, and is there to provide counsel on what steps and actions increase the chances of the best-case scenario for you. The attorney will be familiar with the local courts, judges, and other attorneys and can help you decide whether it’s best to agree to a plea bargain or take a case through a trial.
What Should I Do If I’m Arrested?
If you are arrested for a South Carolina criminal offense, knowing what to do and what not to do is important. If you are charged with a crime, it can stay on your criminal record forever, even if you are found innocent. Anytime you aren’t sure what to do during any part of the criminal court process, it’s important to talk to an attorney.
Do Not Resist
When you have been arrested, the number one thing to do is not to make it worse. So, one of the first things you want to avoid is resisting arrest. Even if you believe the charges are incorrect or unfair, it’s important to cooperate with authorities and ask for your attorney. Running or resisting arrest can add additional charges and can make you look guilty.
Request an Attorney
Upon arrest, don’t say anything to police other than that you want an attorney. You have a right to call an attorney, and it’s important to exercise that right as soon as possible. Once you have requested an attorney, the police can’t talk to you anymore or ask any questions until the lawyer arrives.
Don’t Answer Any Question Without a Lawyer
If possible, don’t wait until you’re arrested to ask for a lawyer. If you believe that you are a person of interest in an investigation, don’t submit to questioning without an attorney present. Even if you are innocent, it can be easy for authorities to twist words or otherwise have you say something that could be later used against you in a court of law.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?
When you are charged with a crime under South Carolina law, the authorities will let you know whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. But many people are confused about what this means and the difference between the two options. Having a full understanding of the criminal charges against you is crucial to your case, so we’ve covered these topics in more detail below.
A felony is a more serious charge than a misdemeanor and is considered the most serious charge under criminal law. A felony conviction can carry lengthy prison sentences and expensive fines, and it follows you for the rest of your life. Felonies can keep you from being able to work in certain industries that deal with vulnerable populations, and they show up on a background check. Some examples of felonies include murder and criminal sexual conduct such as rape, drug trafficking, and assault.
A misdemeanor is considerably less serious than being charged with a felony, but it’s still important to have a criminal law attorney represent you if you’ve been charged. Some misdemeanor criminal convictions can come with jail time and fines, but they are usually less than felony sentences. A misdemeanor on your criminal record doesn’t usually have to be disclosed to potential employers. Examples of misdemeanors in South Carolina include trespassing, resisting arrest, and first offense drunk driving.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Plea Deal?
A plea bargain is an option in many legal cases, but it’s important to understand the pros and cons and exactly what taking a plea means for your criminal charges and your future. Taking a plea deal can be an option to consider if you want to rule out a lengthy maximum sentence, such as with violent offenses. This also means you will avoid a jury trial, which can mean less publicity for your case.
However, plea bargains aren’t always in the defendant’s best interests. Pleading to a felony means that you have a conviction on your record for the rest of your life. If you take the case to trial, there’s always the possibility of a complete acquittal, and that can be hard to give up. Talk to your attorney if you’re unsure whether a plea deal is something you should think about. Criminal attorneys are well versed in plea deals and can help you understand the right option for your case moving forward.
Is It Possible to Have the Evidence Against Me Thrown Out?
Under South Carolina law, it is possible to have evidence thrown out, but it’s not an easy process, and very specific requirements have to be met. The evidence has to be shown to either be false or unreliable, such as if the evidence in a drug possession case didn’t follow the chain of custody or is prejudicial. In criminal law, arguments about what evidence can and should be admitted into court are one of the major legal issues. If there are issues with evidence in your case, you can discuss these matters with your legal counsel to find out if it’s possible to have the evidence dismissed and how that might affect your case.
How Do I Exercise My Right to an Attorney?
You have a right to have an attorney represent you against criminal charges in the South Carolina state court as part of due process, but you may be confused about how actually to hire an attorney. As soon as you know that you may be facing charges — even if you haven’t been formally arrested yet — it’s important to start looking at hiring an attorney. It’s not generally a good idea to even agree to be interviewed informally by police without your attorney present.
If you have been charged with a crime and cannot afford a criminal defense attorney, the courts will appoint a public defender to your case. However, it’s not uncommon for these attorneys to have less time to devote to you because they handle so many cases. It’s best to talk to experienced attorneys in your area about your legal issues and find out their fee structure before going with a public defender. Many attorneys, including our firm, offer free consultations where you can discuss your case and see if you want to hire legal representation.
When you’re facing criminal charges in South Carolina, you don’t have to go through it alone. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can make the difference between feeling like you’re just caught in the court system conveyor belt and feeling like you have an advocate fighting for your interest. Call our law firm today at (803) 888-2200 to speak to a member of our team and find out more about what we do. You can also schedule a free consultation if you’d like to meet with an attorney to discuss your case.