What are the Stages of a Criminal Case in South Carolina?

At the David W. Martin Law Group, our skilled Rock Hill and Fort Mill criminal defense attorneys explain the legal process to each of our clients at the start of their cases, so they are fully aware of their Constitutional Rights, and can make informed decisions about their South Carolina criminal case.

Here is how the criminal court process unfolds.

Investigation/Arrest Occurs

An arrest requires probable cause, which means there must be a witness to the crime, or the arrest took place under the authority of a warrant — whether the allegations are true or false. The individual will then be processed, booked, and placed into custody.

Bond Hearing

After an individual has been arrested and charged with a crime, he or she will have a bond hearing to determine whether they can be released from police custody.

If this person is not a danger to the public, or a potential flight risk, the judge will establish an amount for bail. In some cases, the defendant may be released on their own recognizance, which means without paying bail.

Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is designed to allow both parties — the defense team and the solicitor — to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to continue.

If the defendant is represented by a South Carolina criminal defense attorney — which is beneficial at this point of the case — he or she will not have to attend the preliminary hearing and will not be served with a bench warrant for not appearing.

Initial Appearance/Roll Call

The initial appearance, or roll call, is where it is determined whether the defendant has hired an attorney or been appointed a public defender. If you had an attorney during the preliminary hearing, this has already been established, which is why it is imperative not to wait until your court appearances arrive to retain counsel, as you may be excused from this appearance as well.


Negotiations vary for each criminal case.

During this legal phase, the criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the Solicitor’s office to 1) dismiss the case based on the lack of evidence/testimony 2) establish lesser charges based on the evidence 3) make a plea deal that is beneficial to the client 4) set a jury trial.

Criminal Trial

If the charges are not dismissed, and an agreement cannot be reached, a full jury trial will take place.

This will include jury selection, opening and closing statements, and examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses and evidence.

The solicitor must prove the defendant committed the crime they have been charged with beyond a reasonable doubt, which is why is it important to have a criminal defense attorney by your side.

The judge or jury will make a final decision regarding the defendant’s fate and whether he or she is guilty or not guilty.

If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial.

That means the case will either be dismissed, a new trial date set, and a new jury will be selected.

If a jury or judge finds the defendant guilty, the court will provide a sentence.


In the sentencing segment of a criminal case, the court will determine the punishment for the defendant based on his or her criminal history, and the severity and nature of the current crime they have been convicted of committing.

The Appeal Process

There must be grounds for an appeal — including an error in the case or the sentence imposed — which could lead to the court reversing the conviction or deciding that the case needs to be retried.

Have You Been Arrested for a Crime in South Carolina?

If you have been arrested for a crime in South Carolina, it is imperative that you retain legal representation before your first court date to ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys in York County of David W. Martin Law Group today at (803) 548-2468 or contact us online and one of our experienced defense attorneys will contact you directly.

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What Are The Stages Of A Criminal Case In South Carolina?


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David W. Martin Law Group

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