You can’t believe everything you see on television. While this is true for most types of movies and TV shows, it is especially true when it comes to crime dramas that depict fictionalized criminal trials.
However, these movies and shows have been around for decades; and, as a result, most people have some fundamental misconceptions about what it is really like to stand trial. If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, you need to separate fact from fiction, and you need to have a clear and accurate understanding of what you can expect in court.
Fact or Fiction: The Truth Will Prevail if You are Innocent.
Fiction: Innocent people get convicted all the time, and you need to defend yourself regardless of whether the allegations against you are true.
If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, you need to defend yourself. There are no exceptions. Even if you are 100% certain that you have not committed a crime, you must still fight to preserve your freedom and your future. The statistics on wrongful convictions in the United States are alarming, and you cannot afford to assume that the truth will prevail.
There is another important factor to consider here as well: Are you absolutely certain that you are innocent? While innocence can be painfully clear in some cases (i.e. if you were charged with murder and didn’t kill anyone), it isn’t always so easy to tell. The South Carolina Code of Laws establishes numerous criminal offenses; and, even if you don’t think you committed a crime, you need to make sure you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt before you say something that could be used against you in court.
Fact or Fiction: The System Will Get You if You are Guilty.
Fiction: There are multiple ways to successfully defend against criminal charges even if you took all of the steps necessary to commit a crime in South Carolina.
Now, let’s look at the opposite scenario: You have no doubt that you committed a crime. You intended to commit a crime, you carried out the crime, and now you are facing the consequences of your actions. At this point, doesn’t the prosecutor’s office have an open-and-shut case?
Not necessarily. Even if you committed a crime, there are still multiple defenses you may be able to assert in order to avoid a conviction. Under the U.S. Constitution and South Carolina law, many criminal defenses have nothing to do with whether or not the defendant actually committed a crime. If the prosecutor’s office does not have the evidence it needs to prove your guilt (or if the prosecution’s evidence is legally inadmissible), then you are still entitled to an acquittal at trial regardless of the underlying facts of your case.
Fact or Fiction: You Can’t Be Convicted if the Police Didn’t Read Your Rights.
Fiction: It might be possible to have your confession or statement against interest kept out of your trial, and this might help protect you against a guilty verdict.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona, state and county police are required to read your rights prior to conducting a “custodial interrogation.”If the police interrogated you in custody without reading your rights, then you may be able to assert this as a defense in your criminal trial.
However, the key here is that you need to assert this as a defense – no one else is going to do it for you. Additionally, even if prosecutors cannot use your own statements against you, they may still have enough other evidence to convince the jury to side against you.
Fact or Fiction: You Can’t Be Convicted if the Police Stopped or Searched You Without a Warrant.
Fiction: South Carolina police can lawfully conduct warrantless stops, searches, and seizures under various circumstances. If you were stopped or searched illegally, this might provide a defense.
The same basic principles apply if South Carolina or York County police stopped you or searched you without a warrant. While the police are required to obtain a warrant under some circumstances, there are many circumstances under which warrantless stops, searches, and seizures are permitted. If the police stopped or searched you illegally, you will need to raise this as a defense in order to have the illegally-obtained evidence excluded from your trial.
Fact or Fiction: You Can Request a Public Defender When You Go to Court.
Fact: While it is true that you can request a public defender when you go to court, you need to be able to prove that you are “indigent” in order to have one appointed to represent you
It is true that you can request a public defender and that all criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel; however, there are restrictions on who is actually eligible to have a public defender appointed to represent them. The state must determine that you are “indigent,” and going through this process takes time and effort that you could be devoting to your defense. It is also very possible that you will have to deal with various aspects of your case before a public defender is appointed. For these reasons, among others, it is strongly in your best interests to speak with a private criminal defense attorney.
Fact or Fiction: The Prosecutor’s Office has the Burden of Proof.
Fact: In all criminal cases in South Carolina, the prosecutor’s office has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
This one is absolutely true. In criminal cases, the prosecutor’s office must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You are innocent until proven guilty; and, if the prosecution cannot convince the jury of your guilt with near absolute certainty, you are entitled to an acquittal.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Rock Hill, SC
Are you facing a criminal charge in Rock Hill, SC? If so, we encourage you to contact us immediately to discuss your case. To speak with a South Carolina criminal lawyer at The Law Offices of Michael L. Brown, Jr. in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.