Looking for a Go-To Criminal Defense Attorney in Greenville, South Carolina?

No matter what criminal charges you face, you need a lawyer who will fight to put the law to work for you. Whether you're facing your first offense or you've had legal problems in the past, you want to choose the lawyer who is right for you and will put together the best defense strategy for your case, whether that means negotiating a plea or taking your case to court.

At Roberts Law Group, PLLC, we understand that your future is at stake, and we will fight hard to protect it. We have a team of defense attorneys with decades of combined experience, including trusted and experienced South Carolina attorneys serving the Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Florence areas.

What To Look For In A Criminal Defense Strategy

Although state and federal laws are the same across South Carolina, the ways in which police and prosecutors approach criminal cases vary slightly by city and county. A good criminal defense attorney recognizes that some criminal defense strategies work better than others, depending on where the charges happen. For example, some local police stations may pursue DUIs more aggressively than others. Defense lawyers must understand the best way to approach each case based on local law enforcement policies.

In Greenville, South Carolina, our defense attorneys know that a good defense strategy starts with knowing the law. For example, the police must record a video of all DUI (driving under the influence) arrests in South Carolina. That provides an opportunity for a defense lawyer to find mistakes made by the arresting officer that could result in a dismissal of the case.

Other defense strategies may depend upon what type of charges you face. General criminal defense strategies include:

  • Establishing a strong alibi
  • Attacking the sufficiency of the evidence
  • Raising Fourth-Amendment claims involving illegal search and seizure
  • Claiming a violation of Miranda rights
  • Challenging the legal grounds for a traffic stop, search or arrest

Of course, these are just a few examples. The important thing to keep in mind is that you want a law firm you can trust to find the right defense strategy for your situation.

Common Types Of Charges In The Greenville Area

Your defense will depend on both the type and level of offense you're facing. Common criminal charges in Greenville and the surrounding area include:

  • DUI: Greenville has a bustling downtown nightlife that sometimes makes its way onto the road. South Carolina has more drunk driving deaths per year than the national average, and the use of marijuana by drivers is on the rise.
  • Drug possession: Around half of all drug possession charges in our area involve marijuana. Possession charges may also be combined with charges for distribution, manufacturing or trafficking drugs, which may rise to the federal level.
  • Sex offenses: These serious charges range from indecent exposure to sexual assault to rape. A conviction may require mandatory sex-offender registration, which can follow you for life.
  • Federal crimes: The federal justice system is far more intimidating than the state system. The federal government has more resources and, generally, more experienced prosecutors and investigators. Many federal crimes carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. As a result, federal charges must be taken very seriously.
  • Domestic violence: Although these charges are typically misdemeanors, a domestic violence conviction is very serious and can have a major impact on your life. It can keep you from seeing your family, possessing a firearm and even affect your employment options.

Any criminal charge can lead to serious consequences and affect you the rest of your life. Make sure you have a criminal defense lawyer you trust to help you fight whatever charges you face. Roberts Law Group has collective experience with all the charges listed here, as well as many other misdemeanor and felony offenses. We handle criminal defense in South Carolina state and federal courts.

What To Look For In A Criminal Defense Lawyer

When you are facing an unknown future, you want to know you can trust your criminal defense attorney to be there for you every step of the way. Hiring an attorney from the Greenville area ensures that your attorney is local and accessible to you. A local attorney also knows the legal procedures particular to the Greenville municipality and surrounding area.

But how do you find the right defense lawyer for your case? Here are some things to consider when choosing a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, South Carolina:

  • Experience with the specific criminal charges you face. Your attorney needs to have experience both negotiating plea deals and fighting charges in the courtroom. Some attorneys focus most of their practice on one area, such as DUI charges. If you are facing a drug offense, however, that attorney would not be right for you. Feel free to ask your potential lawyer how many cases of your type they have defended - and how many they have taken to trial.
  • Personal relationship. You need to confide in your attorney and trust that person to speak for you during one of the most important points in your life. Don't settle for someone who barely answers your questions or shows little concern for the outcome of your case.
  • Will this attorney fight for you? You deserve a lawyer who approaches criminal cases as a fierce advocate for clients. Does the attorney seem eager to fight for your case? Will they push you to take a plea deal or will they take it to court, if necessary? Do they have the trial skills and experience to put up a strong fight?
  • Reputation. A law firm's reputation in the legal community is another thing to consider. Your attorney should be respected in the community by judges, other attorneys and even prosecutors. You want your attorney to also have a reputation as an advocate and fighter, and as well as someone who knows the law inside and out.

Your case is worth fighting for. Insist on an attorney who cares about the outcome of your case.

What Is The Process For Criminal Offenses In South Carolina Courts?

Facing criminal charges can feel overwhelming and scary. You may worry about what will happen next. Understanding how the legal process works will help you plan your approach to your defense.

Investigations and arrests may happen in a few different ways, but generally, most cases progress with the following steps:

  • The arrest: Police need probable cause to believe that you committed a crime in order to arrest you. Law enforcement may investigate you first and may even send you a target letter to let you know they are investigating you. Once they believe they have probable cause to arrest you, they may need to ask a judge for a warrant for your arrest. In some situations, though, the police may have grounds to arrest you without needing a warrant. Either way, they must read you your Miranda rights. They will transport you to their local station for processing and may detain you until you are formally charged in court.
  • Court appearance and bail: Within 24 hours of your arrest, you will have a bond hearing before a Magistrate or Municipal Judge. The judge will decide if you are eligible for bail and whether you are likely to show up for your court date. The judge will set your bail and your next court date. If you cannot pay your bond, you can hire a bail bondsman to pay on your behalf for a fee.
  • Misdemeanor vs. felony: South Carolina law categorizes criminal charges as misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies are more serious offenses that carry harsh potential sentences, whether a few years in jail, life in prison or capital punishment (the death penalty). The Magistrate and Municipal Court can only hear misdemeanors, although the General Sessions Court can hear misdemeanors and felonies.
  • Preliminary hearing, roll call and plea: If your case is scheduled for General Sessions Court, you may request a preliminary hearing to argue that the police lacked probable cause to arrest you (or raise certain other grounds). Otherwise, your next court hearing will be a roll-call appearance within 45 days of your arrest. Within 120 days, you will have your second appearance where the prosecution typically offers a plea bargain. If you do not accept the plea bargain, the judge will set your trial date.
  • Plea bargain: In some cases, you may decide to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. Whether to plead guilty is always your choice. Your attorney will provide legal advice regarding the best option for your situation.
  • Trial: How quickly your case comes to trial (if at all) depends on what type of charges you face and their complexity. At trial, the prosecution brings its case, including all of the evidence against you, and your defense attorney will argue on your behalf. You have a right to a jury trial, though some defendants choose a bench trial, which means the judge decides your case rather than a jury. The jury will decide if you are guilty or not guilty. If they find you guilty, the court will sentence you based on your conviction.
  • Appeal: If you are convicted, you can appeal the decision, but you have a limited time in which to decide to appeal. You must appeal within 10 days of your sentencing. The Office of the Attorney General will represent the state of South Carolina in these cases.
  • Post-conviction: Your criminal record could affect your life in many ways, from attending school to getting a job. Certain offenses carry serious long-term consequences. For example, a convicted sex offender may need to register with a local law enforcement agency for life.

Many clients wonder how long the trial process typically takes in South Carolina. Some of the time frames are set by statute, as set forth above. The time between your second scheduled court appearance and your trial may vary quite a bit. As defense attorneys, we like to have as much time as possible to build a strong defense while also minimizing the amount of time you have to spend behind bars. Once your trial begins, however, they typically do not last more than a week in South Carolina. More serious or complex charges may take longer.

Unlike most states, South Carolina has no statute of limitations on criminal charges. That means the prosecutor can bring charges no matter how long it has been since the crime occurred.

Federal offenses in South Carolina are still subject to federal time limits, however.

Should You Choose A Court-Appointed Or Private Defense Attorney?

The court will appoint you a South Carolina criminal defense attorney if you cannot afford to hire your own attorney. You may have heard these lawyers referred to as public defenders. The court selects them from a list of criminal defense lawyers in Greenville County. Some are full-time public defenders who work for the county, but others are part-time and work as private attorneys, as well.

The court does not appoint a public defender for everyone, however. You must qualify based on your income and assets. Under South Carolina law, courts will appoint an attorney if it determines you are "financially unable to retain counsel." You will be screened and sign a financial affidavit to see if you qualify. You may contact the court to apply, or apply online.

The Effectiveness Of A Court-Appointed Attorney

All Greenville County public defenders are members of the South Carolina Bar Association and licensed in the state. Many are excellent attorneys who work very hard for their clients. Unfortunately, many are overburdened and simply cannot keep up with their heavy caseloads.

Public defenders handle 80 to 85% of all South Carolina criminal cases. Even the best attorney cannot give each client their full attention when burdened with such heavy caseloads.

The state will provide specialized representation in certain cases. In capital cases, where the death penalty is a possible outcome, the public defenders come from a special office called the Division of Capital Defenders. The state also has a division of public defenders who specialize in appeals to the South Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The Cost Of Hiring A Private Attorney Instead Of Using A Court-Appointed Attorney

Though many people are concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney, it may not be as expensive as you think. Of course, more complex cases will generally cost more, as many attorneys charge based on their time. You must consider the benefits of an experienced criminal defense law firm, however, when your future hangs in the balance.

You deserve a lead counsel who can focus on your case, giving it the time and attention it needs. A private attorney can take the time to explain everything you should expect to happen as your case progresses, giving you the option to make important decisions along the way. You simply can't overestimate the importance of experience both in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. If you can afford a private attorney, you will likely find it a worthwhile investment in your future.

Trust Your Future To A Defense Team You Can Trust

If you still have questions about your legal defense, come in for a free initial consultation. Contact our firm at 877-880-5753 (ask for our Greenville office) to find out how we can help you with your criminal case.