What can you do to help yourself now? Why is an arrest not a conviction?
When you are arrested for a DUI or other Criminal Charge, you will have many questions. Fortunately, we have answers. The best thing you can do to help yourself now is to be well-educated about your charges and the possible penalties and consequences those charges may have on your life. Call us to find out what your charge carries, the penalties involved and how the consequences could play out in your case. We want you to be informed and we are ready, willing and able to answer your toughest legal questions.
The reason that we say that an arrest is not a conviction is because it is true. If you have been arrested, that means that you have just been accused of a crime, however, that does not mean that you are guilty. The United States Constitution is clear that if you arrested for a crime in this country, you still have rights, including the right to a fair trial and it is also clear that you are INNOCENT until proven guilty. These and other rights and their protections are afforded to you by the Constitution of the United States of America. The USA is different from other countries where these rights are not given to citizens and that's a very important distinction because in many other cultures you are guilty in the beginning. There is often no due process and no immediate right to counsel. In some places, when you are accused of a particular crime, eventually the burden falls upon you to be able to say, “I didn't do this particular thing and here are the reasons why.”
In America, you should understand that you are completely innocent until proven guilty and it is the prosecution's burden to PROVE you guilty of a crime, not your burden to prove yourself innocent. In fact, just because you are arrested that does not necessarily mean that you are necessarily going to be convicted of that crime after you have been to court and been given the due process of law. Since 1996, our criminal lawyers have represented thousands of clients in their court cases. We take the time to investigate each criminal law case fully and find options that work for our clients in order to get their cases reduced, dismissed or taken to trial. We are trial lawyers and constantly in the courtroom. In cases where we feel the client has been treated unfairly by the law, we take those cases to trial to ensure that justice is on their side. Remember, you have rights. Especially, the right to an attorney and the right to a truly fair trial.
There are generally 9 stages to a criminal case. The charges of DUI, Armed Robbery, Possession with Intent to Distribute, and Possession of a Firearm are different types of criminal cases. While the actual details may vary from charge to charge, these are generally the 9 steps that criminal cases go through in the State of South Carolina. Please read and be informed on these stages:
THE 9 STEPS TO A CRIMINAL CASE : THE PROCESS REVEALED
1st Step: ARREST
This means that you are arrested for a particular crime. You are then read their rights, including the right to remain silent, use it and ask for your lawyer. If you are arrested you will actually be placed in handcuffs and transported "somewhere" to detention center. That “somewhere” is the second place.
2nd Step: JAIL
You are transported to a jail or detention facility. You're fingerprinted. You're photographed. The image of being given a number to hold in front of you is the more traditional way that people sort of think about being booked in at the jail. Its actually more expansive than that, You are fingerprinted, photographed and you have a number that you hold in front of you and you get the displeasure of having your face posted up online and the whole world knows that you've been arrested. Usually, those “mugshots” are put into an online catalog called mugshots.com, Booked, Jailbirds or some other less than flattering publication. Companies then place the image into one of several publications that publish mugshots of people and lists what crimes they have been charged with near their name. This can also include your date of birth and address so that anyone who searches you can find it. We all know that Its embarrassing and its frustrating for the person who is arrested. However, it can be embarrassing for their family too and may even result in the loss of your job and some important business and personal relationships. Most people want to avoid this step and want to never set foot back into a jail again.
3rd Step: BOND/BAIL
A bond or bail is an amount of money that you pay to the court, or a bondsman to be released. Bail is where you have to that amount to be able to get out of jail in the hopes and the promise that you'll come back and defend your case in court or complete your case. A bondsman will typically charge anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the face amount of the bond as their fee to “sign” your bond for you. If you don't come back to court, they will take it personally and come get you! There money is on the line and they will make a point of finding you.
4th Step: ARRAIGNMENT
An arraignment is a court proceeding where you have a criminal charge against you and they bring you before the judge and he or she says, “We have this criminal charge against you. How do you want to proceed? Do you plead guilty or not guilty and do you want to challenge it?” And of course you challenge it. You challenge it with a lawyer. It is not wise to plead guilty at an arraignment and most jurisdictions won't let you. This proceeding is handled by the lawyer and the client says very little at this stage. Use your right to remain silent and let your lawyer speak for you at this stage.
5th Step: PRELIMINARY HEARING
This is a very important and often overlooked step in any criminal case. After you've been arrested you only have “10 DAYS” to request this hearing in South Carolina. This is why it is important to consult with a lawyer as soon as you get out of jail, because this time limit is very strict. A good lawyer will request your hearing for you and preserve your right to this hearing immediately. This request is usually sent with the lawyer's letter of representation and discovery (evidence) request package to the prosecutor or the officer. At the preliminary hearing, the only question is whether or not there was probable cause to find that they should have stopped you in the first place. If you are were in a car and driving or if you were stopped on the street and arrested, they should have had a legal reason to stop you and that is that is to say that they should have had “probable cause” to believe that you're committing a crime.
The state, through the officer's testimony, must establish that there was probable cause for the arrest for the case against you to continue to proceed forward.
6th Step: PRETRIAL CONFERENCE
This is the next step in the process. This is the opportunity to see if the case can be worked out before a trial date is set. Specifically, at the pretrial conference the lawyer has a chance to talk to the officer, to the prosecutor and also to the judge, in many instances. in this crucial court proceeding, it is determined whether or not the case will be going forward with a trial or a plea. If there are any negotiations for a lesser charge or sentence, it will first happen at this conference.
7th Step: BENCH OR JURY TRIAL
We have a “jury trial” for a reason and that reason is to preserve justice. If you don't end up working it out on a plea, then you end up with a bench trial (trial in front of a judge only) or a jury trial. At that jury trial, there will be 6 jurors in a magistrate or municipal (little court) court case or 12 jurors in a general sessions (big court) case who are supposed to be fair and impartial jurors. A juror is supposed to hear all of the evidence presented by the attorneys and the prosecutors and to decide your fate. It is their collective and unanimous decision on whether or not you will only be found guilty or not guilty that determines your outcome. This is where the skill and experience of your attorney is best utilized and a where a good attorney can truly help you.
8th Step: SENTENCING
This is where your fate is decided. The sentencing is not done by jurors; they just decide whether they believe you are guilty or not guilty, that is, whether or not they believe that you committed the crime or not. The sentencing phase is done by the judge. The judge, himself, or herself, will be able to say that, “Based on the jury finding you guilty, your sentence is X.” The sentence they impose is within their own discretion within the range of acceptable sentences provided by law, including probation or immediate jail time. If, however, you are found not guilty, then the judge will allow you to walk away a free man or woman and the case is over.
9th Step: APPEAL
If you lose your case you have the right to an appeal. That is that you've been found guilty of a particular crime. You did not get to walk away free and be found not guilty. Usually, this would be the end of it, but if you've been found guilty of a particular crime you may decide to appeal the jury's verdict at trial or appeal the sentence of the judge. In most jurisdictions, you have only 10 to 30 days to be able to appeal that conviction, depending on which jurisdiction you're in, or to appeal the jury trial's result, depending on what the jurisdiction you're in. The appeal itself is a completely separate court case and can take months or years to resolve. During this time the person will remain in jail or may in rare cases will be granted an appeal bond and allowed to be out of jail pending an appeal, usually with electronic monitoring such as an ankle bracelet with a GPS fastened to their leg to ensure that the court knows where they are at all times. These are the general stage of a criminal case. The attorney you choose helps you navigate this legal minefield to get the best result. So choose your attorney carefully. They have your life and you freedom in their hands.
By Freddy Woods, Esq.