In South Carolina if you have been arrested for a misdemeanor criminal offense, you will be given a bond and a court date to appear in front of a judge to have the case heard. Depending on the type of charge and the penalties involved, your case will either be heard in magistrate/summary court or general sessions in front of a circuit court judge.
Types of cases a Magistrate can set Bail for
A magistrate can set bail for a person that is charged with a crime where the punishment does not involve life in prison or death. This limitation is defined in South Carolina’s code of laws section 22-5-510(A).
A circuit court judge has the authority to hear all criminal matters.
Types of misdemeanor charges
Misdemeanor charges can range from:
DUI 1st offense; Drug possession; Criminal domestic violence; Simple assault and battery; Disorderly conduct; Shoplifting; Gun crimes, etc.
Not all misdemeanors carry the same penalty. In South Carolina the following statutes and penalties apply for the below offenses:
DUI 1st 56-5-2930(A)(1) up to 30 days; Possession of Marijuana 44-53-370(d)(4) up to 30 days Possession of Heroin 44-53-370(d)(1) 0-2 yrs. Possession of cocaine/Crack 44-53-375(A) 0-3 yrs.
The typical misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail will be heard in front of a magistrate judge and will most often be prosecuted by the police officer that arrested you. If the penalty is greater than 30 days and up to possibly 3 years in prison then the case will go to the state solicitor who will prosecute the case in circuit court.
Does a conviction mean jail time?
Even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime that does not mean that you will go to jail or that you will necessarily have a permanent criminal record for the rest of your life. Sometimes an attorney can work a plea deal where your charge can be expunged after three years from the date of conviction so that your criminal record will be clean if you do not receive another conviction within the period.
Drug Court Programs
There is also a strong push for the court system not to jail persons that have addiction issues involving illegal substances but rather help them get treatment for their addiction so they are less likely to re-offend and create a revolving door through the jail system. South Carolina is one of the most progressive states that utilizes drug court in both state and federal courts. Many states around the country have drug courts in state court but South Carolina is one of the first states that has a model in the federal system as well where the punishment can be much more severe and unforgiving.
There are two major benefits to drug court. First, is the offender is getting help and treatment to fight their addiction issues and it keeps them out of jail and saves the tax payer money. Second, is that upon successful completion of the drug court program a participants charge or charges are dismissed and they will have a clean criminal record.