What to Do if You are Charged with a Crime in Charleston, SC
What should you do if you are charged with a crime?
It can be an overwhelming and confusing experience, and you should be aware of common mistakes people make that could negatively affect your criminal case – and possibly the rest of your life.
Regardless of the type of crime you are charged with, a criminal conviction can have serious consequences including fines, prison time, probation, sex offender registry, or other penalties depending on the nature of the charges, and many criminal convictions in SC cannot be expunged.
Below are some basic tips that apply to anyone charged with a crime in SC that could make the difference between a guilty verdict, dismissal, or acquittal.
Do Not Answer Any Questions Before Meeting with Your Attorney
“You have the right to remain silent,” so, please – remain silent and do not answer any questions by law enforcement. Why? Because “any statements you make can and will be used against you in a court of law,” and those statements could make the difference between a dismissal or your charges, a reduction of your charges, an acquittal at trial, or a guilty verdict and prison sentence…
When the police begin asking you questions, don’t be rude or combative. Just tell them, as many times as it takes until they stop asking questions, “I am exercising my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and I would like to speak to my attorney, please.”
Do Not Talk to Anyone at the Jail
Every person you meet who is incarcerated in the county jail has charges pending.
The easiest way for prosecutors to get evidence against you is to bring a witness who will testify that you “confessed” to them in the holding cell. Why would they do that? Everyone wants “help” on their case, and, if they are in a desperate situation with few options, they will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat to save themselves from a long prison sentence.
Don’t talk to cellmates about your case – even if you don’t “confess,” you may be giving them just enough information to lie and say that you admitted to committing the crime. Don’t share your discovery materials with anyone, especially people at the jail who have pending charges.
Again, anyone who gets your discovery materials – incident reports and witness statements, for example, will have just enough information to lie and say that you confessed to certain details of the alleged crime.
Do Not Talk to Friends or Family About Your Case
Don’t talk to the police. Don’t talk to inmates at the jail. And do not discuss your case with friends or family either.
Unlike your conversations with your attorney, your conversations with friends and family are not covered by attorney-client privilege, and they can be compelled to give testimony against you.
Stay Calm and Do Not Be Combative
If you are arguing with a police officer or jail staff, you may say things that you will later regret. Also, they might be called to testify about your demeanor after your arrest, or you may be on video – you do not want jurors, your prosecutor, or your judge to see you “acting out” in an angry manner.
Furthermore, the arresting officer(s) in your case may be looking for an excuse to charge you with additional crimes like resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct, or interfering with an investigation…
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC Immediately
Call an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately – you don’t know what you don’t know, and, if you have been charged with a crime, you desperately need answers, advice, and information on the charges, your defenses, and what your next steps are to avoid a conviction or prison time.
Whenever possible, call a criminal defense attorney before your bond hearing – your attorney may be able to:
- Prevent you from making incriminating statements at your bond hearing,
- Present mitigating facts to the bond judge that could result in a lower bond,
- Show the judge that you are taking the charges seriously because you have already retained an attorney; therefore, you are not a flight risk, and
- Argue for a lower bond amount, a 10% bond, a cash bond, or a personal recognizance (PR) bond.
Be Honest with Your Criminal Defense Attorney
Your defense attorney works for you and has a duty of confidentiality to you. My job as your criminal defense lawyer, unless we discuss another goal when we meet, is to win your case. That could mean getting your case dismissed, finding an alternative to conviction, or winning your case at trial.
To do my job, I need to know the truth about all that happened, who was involved, and the full extent of your involvement.
Our conversations are protected by both 1) the attorney-client privilege – I cannot be compelled to disclose what you have told me and 2) the ethics rules that govern attorneys – which means I could be disbarred if I repeated confidential information without your consent.
You must trust your attorney, and, if you do not trust your attorney, you need to immediately find another attorney you can trust.
Learn About the Offenses You are Charged With
Learn about your charges, what the state must prove to get a conviction, and what your potential defenses will be.
It’s okay to learn about your charges from the information you get on the internet, but 1) confirm what you have learned with your attorney and 2) trust your attorney’s knowledge of the law and their criminal trial experience.
Know When Your Court Appearances Are (And Don’t Miss Them)
Keep all your paperwork, give copies to your attorney, and keep track of all court dates.
You may have court dates that will result in a bench warrant or waiver of important rights if you miss them, including:
- Initial court dates for misdemeanor offenses,
- Roll call dates (initial appearances and docket appearances),
- Preliminary hearing dates,
- Implied consent hearing dates in DUI cases,
- Motion hearing dates,
- Roster meeting or pretrial conference dates, and
- Trial dates.
Make arrangements to attend every court appearance unless your attorney confirms that you are excused, stay in touch with your attorney, and let your attorney know well in advance if a conflict would prevent you from attending a court date.
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone represents people charged with crimes in SC state and federal courts.
If you have been charged with a crime or believe that you are under investigation in the Charleston, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach areas of SC, call now at (843) 808-2100 or send an email to schedule a free consultation.