Apart from physically hurting someone, any attempt or threat to injure someone may fall under assault in South Carolina. Assault charges can result in months of hearings, fines and even jail time but do not always lead to a conviction. The events that follow an arrest can be confusing, but knowing what to expect may help you navigate the complex legal system.
In most assault cases, the perpetrator is first arrested and then processed through the public law enforcement system. The police will take your fingerprints, interview you and document what happened.
After processing, you should receive a date for your arraignment or initial hearing, where you will assume the role of defendant. At your arraignment, the court will read the charges against you, and may offer bail or impose restrictions. During this hearing, you must also enter a guilty or not guilty plea. If you have an attorney, they can attend and enter a plea in your place.
After your arraignment, your case can proceed to a preliminary hearing, a process similar to a minitrial where testimony and supporting evidence must be given. This procedure might help you evaluate the weight of the evidence against you.
Many cases end during the preliminary hearing. Below are some reasons why the judge may dismiss your charges:
- Insufficient evidence
- Lack of reasonable cause
- Unlawful stop or search
- Failure to read Miranda rights
- Unavailable witnesses
If your case goes to trial, the prosecution will argue why you are guilty and present their evidence. It will also be your chance to disprove their claims. You will get a verdict of guilty or innocent at the end of your trial.
If the court declares you guilty, it can hand down your sentence immediately or at a later time. Keep in mind that if your actions caused someone to suffer injuries, they might pursue a civil case against you. That would entail a whole other process and penalties.
Legal proceedings for assault in South Carolina are complicated. Moreover, how you deal with things can either make or break your case. No matter how overwhelming your situation is, do not let anyone force you to make a decision and assert your rights when you need to.