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Should I schedule a preliminary hearing for my South Carolina case?

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

In South Carolina, any person charged with a General Sessions crime must be given notice of his or her right to a preliminary hearing. If you are charged with a magistrate or municipal level offense, then you do not have a right to a preliminary hearing. In most cases, the bond judge will provide notice of your right to a preliminary hearing during your initial bond hearing. The bond judge usually provides notice orally as well as in writing by giving you a form to sign and return to the magistrate in order to request a preliminary hearing.

What is the purpose of a preliminary hearing?

The preliminary hearing is used to challenge probable cause. The prosecution is required to establish probable cause for your arrest by having the officer(s) testify and any other necessary witnesses. The criminal defense attorney will then have the opportunity to cross examine the witnesses and make a motion to dismiss. If the magistrate determines that there is no probable cause, then your case will be dismissed. However, if the magistrate finds there is probable cause, then your case will be bound over to the Court of General Sessions.

When will my preliminary hearing be held?

The hearing is supposed to be held within ten (10) days following the request. In reality, in some counties, the courts are backlogged and this does not always happen. However, the reason it is important to have the preliminary hearing quickly is because you lose your right to a preliminary hearing once your charge is indicted by a grand jury. If you have been charged with a general sessions crime, then you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately so your preliminary hearing right can be preserved.

What happens after my case is dismissed at the preliminary hearing?

It depends. The prosecutor has discretion to directly indict your charge and continue to prosecute it. In practice, this largely depends on why it was dismissed at the preliminary hearing and what, if any, other evidence there is in your case. For example, if the case was dismissed at the preliminary hearing because the police officer forgot about court and therefore was unable to testify, then the prosecutor may choose to move forward with your charges in general sessions.

Contact Young & Young Attorneys at Law for your General Sessions charge.

Even if your charge is not dismissed during the preliminary hearing, it can still be an extremely beneficial process. A preliminary hearing is often the first opportunity to speak to the officer about your case and cross examine the officer on the stand. It provides the defense the chance to poke holes in the case and possibly even discuss a resolution.