If you are facing a criminal charge in South Carolina, there are some steps you need to take in order to give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding a conviction at trial. Most importantly, you need to make sure you show up for your court date, and you need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to fight your charge on your behalf.
But, in addition to taking these steps, there are some things you need to avoid doing as well. Too often, defendants make mistakes that end up making it more difficult to fight their charges in court. If you are not careful, your own words and actions could be used against you, and you could find yourself serving a sentence that could – and should – have been avoided.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Facing a Criminal Charge in South Carolina
The criminal justice system is complicated; and, as a defendant, you will be at a disadvantage if you don’t know how to assert your legal rights effectively. Mistakes can jeopardize your defense as well, and you need to make sure you know what NOT to do in order to avoid unnecessary consequences. With this in mind, here are five examples of mistakes to avoid when facing a criminal charge in South Carolina:
1. Do NOT Get Arrested Again
First and foremost, if you are awaiting trial on criminal charges, you do not want to get arrested again. While this does not have any bearing on your guilt or innocence in your current case, it could have an impact on your sentencing if you are not able to avoid a conviction. It could also impact the judge’s decision regarding bail.
For example, in many cases, it will be possible for first-time offenders to enter into diversion programs. These programs “divert” your case from trial, and successfully completing a diversion program can help you avoid a criminal record. However, if you get arrested again while your case is pending, the judge, prosecutor, or both may be less inclined to offer this as an option. Additionally, if you get convicted in your current case, then you could be at risk for enhanced penalties in your subsequent case as a repeat offender.
2. Do NOT Say Anything to the Police
As a criminal defendant in South Carolina, you have the right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to answer any questions from the police, except for basic questions about your identity and where you live. While you might think that answering a few questions will be harmless – especially if you do not think you have anything to hide – there are several reasons why you do not want to take the risk of talking to the police following your arrest.
What if it is too late? In other words, what if you already gave a statement to the police? In order to determine the consequences, you will need to discuss your statement with your defense attorney. Your attorney will be able to determine what impact (if any) your statement will have on your defense, and he or she will be able to determine if you have grounds to argue that your statement should be excluded from evidence in your case as well.
3. Do NOT Assume You are Innocent
Regardless of the facts of your case, you should not assume that you are innocent. If you do, and if you do not take your case seriously, you could find yourself facing an unexpected sentence. South Carolina’s criminal laws are complicated; and, even if you do not think you committed a crime, it could still be the case that your conduct amounts to a violation of South Carolina law.
Furthermore, even if you are innocent, you will need to successfully defend yourself during the pre-trial process—and at trial if necessary. Wrongful convictions happen (at an alarming rate), and it is up to you to convince the judge or jury that the prosecutor’s office cannot meet its burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
4. Do NOT Assume You Will Be Found Guilty
Just as you should not assume that you are innocent, you also should not assume that you will be found guilty. Regardless of what you did or did not do, you could have defenses that entitle you to a “not guilty” verdict at trial. For example, if the police interrogated you in custody and obtained a confession without reading your Miranda rights, then your confession may be inadmissible in court. If the prosecution’s other evidence is insufficient to prove your guilt, then you may be entitled to walk free.
One of the most common misconceptions people have about the criminal justice system is that the truth will prevail if you are innocent, and the system will get you if you are guilty. While this is true in some cases, innocent people get convicted, and guilty people walk free. The outcome of your case will depend on the effort that you put into your defense, and you need to make informed decisions based on the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
5. Do NOT Underestimate the Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
Finally, when facing a criminal charge in South Carolina, you must not underestimate the consequences of a conviction. South Carolina law imposes substantial penalties for felonies and misdemeanors, and a conviction can have various collateral consequences as well. Before you make any assumptions or any decisions about how you will approach your defense, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of what is at stake, and you need to appreciate what a conviction could mean for the rest of your life.
Request a Confidential Consultation with Rock Hill, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael L. Brown
Are you facing a criminal charge in South Carolina state court in the Rock Hill area? To discuss your case with criminal defense attorney Michael L. Brown in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.