What Happens After an Arrest in SC?
Most of us have had an encounter with law enforcement at one point or another.
For relatively minor situations, the police will likely let you go with a ticket or a warning.
When brushes with the law are more serious, however, you may end up getting arrested. If this happens, you’ll have a lot of questions racing through your mind: What are my rights? Are they taking me to jail? What happens after an arrest?
The best thing you can do if you’re placed under arrest is remain calm and cooperate with the arresting officers. While this is easier said than done, knowing what to expect after an arrest can help you get through it.
The Arrest and Your Rights
A police officer may arrest you with or without a warrant, depending on the situation. If the officer witnesses the crime, or if they have probable cause, they don’t need to wait for a judge to issue a warrant.
For example, if the police came to your home on a noise complaint and saw you punching your neighbor in the face, they wouldn’t need a warrant because they witnessed the crime taking place. Or, if you get pulled over for driving erratically and fail a field sobriety test, the officer would have probable cause that you’re driving drunk.
What are my rights?
You have certain rights you’re entitled to when you’re being arrested. These rights also dictate what a police officer can or can’t do while arresting you.
Police officers are required to read you the Miranda warning, also known as Miranda rights, when making an arrest. If you’ve ever watched any kind of crime show on TV, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the line, “You have the right to remain silent…”
By law, you have the right to:
- Refuse to answer any questions or to stop answering questions at any point (remain silent)
- Consult an attorney
- Have an attorney appointed to you if you cannot afford one
If you have been arrested, the police may have the limited right to search you and your belongings. This can include looking through your pockets, your purse, or your car if you were arrested in your car. However, they can’t expand that search to your home or workplace without a warrant. This doesn’t cover anything an officer may see in plainview while in your home or workplace.
In South Carolina, police also have the right to administer a Breathalyzer test if they think you have been driving under the influence. However you have the legal right to refuse such request.
What if I think my rights were violated?
If you think your rights have been violated, above all, stay calm and don’t try to fight the officers or cause a scene. There will be a time for everything to be addressed and handled lawfully. Your best bet is to contact an attorney to help you.
The Booking Process
After your arrest, you’ll be taken to the police station and booked. The booking process creates an official arrest record and can take up to several hours. A typical booking process includes:
- Recording your name and the crime you’ve been arrested for
- Taking a mugshot
- Taking fingerprints
- Surrendering your clothing and personal belongings for evidence or to be held until your release
- Full body search
- Check for outstanding warrants in your name
- Health screening
- Routine incarceration questions to help avoid violence and fights
What are my rights during booking?
At any point in the booking process, you have the right to not answer questions or to ask for an attorney. If you waive these rights or make statements, it’s important to understand that anything you say can be used against you once you get to court. For example, if you’re arrested for driving under the influence and tell the officer you “only had three drinks,” they can use that statement as an admittance of guilt.
At the same time, an officer can’t force you or threaten you to admit guilt. They also don’t have the power to make promises to help you in court in exchange for admitting you’re guilty. Your best bet is to contact an attorney and let them advise you.
Bail and Bond
Getting out of jail will probably be the first thing on your mind, and bail (or bond) allows you to do so. Within 24-48 hours, you will have a bail hearing. It is important to contact an attorney immediately to help you at this hearing. A judge will listen to the facts of your case and decide whether or not you can be released from jail along with the financial cost of such release. If you can, you’ll have to provide bail. Bail is money or property you provide to ensure you will show up in court for your hearing. The judge sets this amount, which can be paid by you, a relative, friend, or professional bondsman (which require a fee).
At the bail hearing, you have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one and want one, the court will appoint one to you. You can also request a preliminary hearing. This is also known as a probable cause hearing. During this hearing, the judge will determine if there is probable cause that you committed the crime you were arrested for. If the judge decides there is no probable cause, the case will be dismissed.
While you’re out on bond, you must comply with the bail conditions the judge sets. Additionally, you must show up to court on the date assigned. Failure to appear in court will result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest.
Depending on your arrest, your vehicle may have been impounded or your license suspended. It’s important that you not drive on a suspended license, even to pick up your vehicle.
Going to Court
The court you will go to depends on the crime you have been charged with. In South Carolina criminal charges are dealt with in 3 different courts: General Sessions Court, Magistrate Court, and Municipal Court.
General Sessions Court handles both misdemeanors and felonies. In General Sessions Court, penalties range from 30 days in jail or a $500 fine, to the death penalty.
Magistrate and Municipal court also handle criminal charges. These courts deal with traffic violations and misdemeanor cases with penalties that are less severe than General Sessions Court.
Your Court Appearances
Your first court appearance will be your bail hearing. From there, additional court appearances include:
The purpose of this court is to ensure your case is moving along. At Roll Call, you or your attorney will attend to check in with the prosecutor of your case.
If you have an attorney, you will likely not need to attend. In most cases, the appearance will be waived altogether and your case will proceed to the next step.
The first court appearance allows the judge to address any administrative concerns. Specifically, he or she will decide whether to put your case on a 180-day or 365-day track. More serious crimes that require complicated evidence, extensive witnesses, or expert testimony are put on the 365-day track.
Your attorney may be able to attend this appearance for you. If you don’t have an attorney, it’s very important that you attend; otherwise, you’ll be arrested and may have to remain in jail until your trial or plea.
Here, you will inform the court whether you are going to plea or go to trial. Keep in mind that this decision is not set in stone; you or the prosecution can change your mind later. Like the first court appearance, make sure you attend if you don’t have an attorney.
Guilty or Not Guilty—Pleading in Court
At your second appearance, you may plead guilty or not guilty. The process after that depends on your plea.
When you plead guilty, you are admitting guilt to the crime you’ve been charged with. This may come as a result of plea bargaining, which takes place between you and your attorney. In some cases, the prosecutor may offer a lesser charge if you plead guilty. This also helps you avoid trial.
If you plead guilty, you and your attorney will attend court. The judge will ask you a series of questions to ensure you understand the charges and what you are agreeing to by pleading guilty. Your attorney will also have a chance to present a mitigation argument, which explains the positive qualities you have. You can also speak, if you’d like. The victim of your crime may also be present, and he or she may speak as well.
Finally, the judge will sentence you based on the facts and the mitigation argument.
If you plead not guilty, your case may go to trial. Before the trial, your attorney may attend a number of other court hearings in preparation.
At trial, the case will be presented. If you are found not guilty, your case is over and the charges are dropped. If you are found guilty, the judge will sentence you.
Being arrested is a frightening, confusing time that most people are not equipped to handle alone. Your best bet is to hire an experienced attorney to help you navigate the process and help you reach the best possible outcome.
I Just Got Arrested, Now What?
If you ever find yourself in a scenario where you’ve been arrested and aren’t sure what to do next, dial (843) 488-5000, or us this form. We’ll be glad to answer your questions so you can make an informed decision.
Ready to Speak with an Attorney?
Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.
1104 North Oak Street
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
1314 2nd Avenue
Conway, SC 29526
231 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401
1201 Main Street, Suite 1913
Columbia, SC 29201
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