What Are Alternatives to a Criminal Conviction in SC?
Most people don’t walk into our office and say, “Hey, how many years can you get me in jail?” Without fail, people are looking for alternatives to a criminal conviction.
That could be a dismissal of their charges, an acquittal at trial, or a pretrial diversion program, depending on the facts of the case.
Our goal is to get your case dismissed or win your case at trial unless there is another resolution that you agree with. In some cases, alternatives to a criminal conviction may include a pretrial diversion program like:
- Pretrial intervention (PTI);
- The Alcohol Education Program (AEP);
- The Traffic Education Program (TEP);
- A conditional discharge; or
- Drug Court
Not every case gets dismissed. Not every case is eligible for pretrial diversion.
But, it’s important to know what all the options are for alternatives to a criminal conviction. Below, I’ll go through some of those options and discuss what happens when you are not eligible for pretrial diversion.
Pretrial Diversion Alternatives to a Criminal Conviction
When we first meet with you about your criminal charges, we want to know who you are, what you’ve been charged with, what the potential evidence against you will be, and what your goal will be in your case.
Your goal may be a dismissal of your charges. In some cases, your goal may be pretrial diversion, probation, minimal jail time, or a no-holds-barred trial if your case is not dismissed.
Our goal in every criminal case is to get your case dismissed or find the path to an acquittal at trial.
Once we have done an independent investigation of your case, reviewed the State’s evidence against you, and prepared your case for trial so we know what your odds are, then, in appropriate cases, we consider whether pretrial diversion is a reasonable alternative to trial.
What are some of the options for pretrial diversion in Horry County SC?
Pretrial Intervention (PTI)
Pretrial intervention (PTI) in Horry County is a program that allows you to do community service, pay a fee, and complete other requirements in exchange for a dismissal and expungement of your criminal charges.
It is only available for relatively minor offenses, and, with few exceptions, it is only available for first-time offenders.
It does not require an admission of guilt, and, once the requirements have been completed, your case is dismissed…
Alcohol Education Program (AEP)
The Alcohol Education Program (AEP) in Horry County is similar to PTI, but it is only available for alcohol-related offenses like minor in possession of alcohol, public intoxication, or open container of alcohol.
Like PTI, once the requirements of AEP are completed, your case is dismissed, and all records of the arrest are expunged.
Traffic Education Program (TEP)
The Traffic Education Program (TEP) in Horry County is like PTI and AEP in that, once you have completed the requirements, your ticket is dismissed and expunged.
It is only available for minor traffic offenses, and the requirements include attending a traffic education class (traffic school).
Although conditional discharges are available in both the lower courts (magistrate and municipal) and General Sessions Court, it is most often used in the magistrate and municipal courts.
It is available for first-time offenders charged with minor drug offenses – simple possession of marijuana is the most common, but other minor offenses could qualify.
A conditional discharge does require an admission of guilt – it’s a conditional guilty plea. Once you have completed a pre-set number of community service hours, however, your case is dismissed, and all records of your arrest are expunged.
What happens if you don’t complete the community service hours?
Technically, if you do not complete the requirements, you are guilty, and the conviction will stay on your record.
If this happens, however, be aware that, if the court did not take your guilty plea on the record, if you were not represented by counsel, or if you did not waive your constitutional rights on the record, you should be able to reopen your case and take it to trial.
Call your criminal defense attorney immediately, because there are time limits for filing a motion to reopen your case or a post-conviction relief action.
Drug Court in Horry County is for more serious drug offenses, and it is not a quick and painless solution. For those who qualify, however, it can save your life and your family.
Technically, Drug Court is not a “pretrial” solution. If you qualify for drug court, you plead guilty and you are sentenced to time in prison.
That sentence is then “held in abeyance,” or put on the shelf, while you complete the Drug Court requirements, which include:
- Attending regular Drug Court meetings;
- Attending 12-step meetings;
- Attending therapy;
- Working a full-time job or attending school full time; and
- Random drug screens.
The frequency of meetings and the length of time required to finish the program vary depending on the “level” of Drug Court that you were placed in – in some cases, it could last 18 months or longer.
If you are facing serious drug charges and you do not have a rock-solid defense for trial, if you have a drug problem, and if you are willing and able to stay clean while participating in a treatment program, Drug Court may be the answer to your criminal charges and it might save your life…
Once you complete the program, your case is reopened, dismissed, and all records of the arrest are expunged.
On the other hand, if you are not someone who is ready, able, and willing to participate in treatment and stay clean, it could be a ticket to prison – once you fail out of the program, you cannot ask for a trial because you have already been convicted.
What if I Can’t Get into a Pretrial Diversion Program?
Obviously, pretrial diversion programs are not available for everyone, and we must look at other alternatives to a criminal conviction.
Once we have investigated your case, received all evidence the State will use against you and reviewed the evidence with you, we will decide what your goal is and what range of outcomes you are willing to accept.
Depending on the facts of your case, this could realistically be:
- A dismissal or trial;
- A fine or trial;
- Probation or trial;
- No sex offender registry or trial;
- Minimal jail time or trial; or
- Any potential outcome that is based on the facts of your case and your goals in your case.
If the State does not offer what we are willing to accept, your only option is to try your case to a jury, however…
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you have been arrested in SC, contact the Myrtle Beach criminal defense attorneys at Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or through our website for a free consultation to find out whether there are alternatives to a criminal conviction and what your options are.
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
** Please be aware that any result achieved on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.
** Clients may be responsible for costs in addition to attorney’s fees. In percentage based cases, fees are calculated prior to deducting costs.
** This website is meant to provide meaningful information, but does not create an attorney-client relationship. As each legal issue is unique, please consult with our firm prior to relying on any information found on this site.