What Are The Different Types Of Pleas In South Carolina?
In South Carolina Municipal or Magistrate court, there are three types of pleas: plead guilty, plead not guilty, or plead nolo contendere (aka as “no contest).
At What Point In My Criminal Case Do I Enter A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?
There may be several points during your criminal case where you can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. However, you should never enter a plea of guilty, unless you have had ample opportunity to discuss all aspects of the case with your attorney. In SC state and municipal courts, you will be presumed to have entered a “not guilty” plea unless and until you enter a guilty plea. This is another way of saying you are presumed innocent unless and until you are convicted in a court of law.
I Was Contacted By Police Days Ago But Not Charged Yet. What’s Going On?
If you were contacted because you were a suspect or a “person of interest” in an investigation, then most likely, the investigation is still ongoing. If at any point during the investigation, the police have probable cause to charge you with a crime, then they will most likely do so. There are certain things that can be done by your attorney during this process to help you, so please contact us immediately.
Will My Lawyer And I Get To See Evidence/Discovery Before We Make A Plea Of Guilty Or Not Guilty?
Yes, you have a right to see the evidence/discovery in your case before you are forced to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. However, you or your attorney must first file a Motion for Discovery in this case. This Motion for Discovery is usually made pursuant to the SC Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 5, and well as the Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, and its progeny. This is why a Motion for Discovery is sometimes referred to as a Rule 5/Brady motion.
What Exactly Is A Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement reached in a criminal case between the prosecutor and the defense attorney and his client. Usually, a plea bargain will include a plea down to a lesser charge (sometimes much lesser) in exchange for a guilty plea. Plea bargains can also include an agreement regarding the sentence of the case, but this is always subject to approval by the judge. Some possible plea agreements regarding sentencing could be time served, a fine, probation, or some kind of conditional discharge. Plea bargains are often very complicated, so please make sure you go over every aspect of any plea bargains with your attorney before you enter into one.
Why Are Plea Bargains Used In So Many Cases?
Plea bargains are used in so many cases for several reasons. First, there can be a huge benefit to the client in certain cases where the evidence is so strong that there is a likely chance they would be convicted at trial. The plea bargain would impart a benefit or multiple benefits to the defendant in exchange for the agreement. Likewise, prosecutors often have huge caseloads, so they can’t practically try every single case, even if they wanted to. This affords prosecutors an opportunity to move a case without the time and resources it takes to take a case to trial. Plea bargains are often encouraged by the courts and judges as well to keep their dockets from becoming too clogged.
Why Are Sentences Usually Reduced For A Guilty Plea? Are Plea Bargains Available In All Cases?
Judges will almost always give a reduced sentence for a guilty plea versus if the person was convicted at trial. The thinking here, which is sometimes explicit and sometimes implied, is that the judge gives the defendant “credit” for admitting guilty and taking some responsibility for the crime in which they are pleading guilty to.
Plea bargains are not available in all cases. A prosecutor has the option to not offer a plea bargain in a particular case. However, if it is something you would be interested in, you should let your attorney know and they should use all their resources to secure you the best possible plea bargain in your case. However, you always have a right to decline any plea bargain and exercise your right to a jury trial.
Is There A Time Limit On Making A Plea Bargain?
Usually, if there is any plea bargain worked out in a criminal case, the prosecutor or judge will put a date that the deal will expire upon if not accepted before then. This is why it is very important to discuss with your lawyer any potential plea bargains as soon as they are offered.
Does The Judge Have To Accept A Plea Bargain?
No, the judge does not have to accept a plea bargain. If the plea bargain is a “negotiated deal,” then the judge can only accept or reject the deal. If the judge rejects the deal, nothing further will happen with your case at that time, and you will be allowed to stand down. In other words, the judge would not be able to sentence you at that time. However, if the plea deal is a “recommendation” by the prosecutor or is without “recommendation” or “negotiation,” then the judge could sentence you to anything that is within the legal range.
Can There Be A Plea Bargain Without The Prosecutor’s Approval?
The short answer to this question is no.
What Are The Disadvantages To Pleading Guilty In My Criminal Case?
- You can be sentenced right there
- You may have permanent criminal records
- Giving up your right to a jury trial
For more information on Plea Bargains In South Carolina, a free consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (843) 856-2222 today.