The rights of a criminal defendant in South Carolina – The United States Constitution has certain protections for criminal defendants that every jurisdiction adheres to. Most people are aware of the right to remain silent (though it is not exercised nearly enough), but few are aware of the many rights they can exercise if they have been accused of a crime. In this blog, we will discuss some of those rights, specifically regarding South Carolina criminal law. Like all our blogs, this is intended for general informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.
Procedural rights of criminal defendants
- The right to be informed of the nature of the complaint: A criminal complaint must state, in simple terms, what crimes the defendant is accused of. This can simply be what the charges are, and how many counts of the charges are being alleged. When someone is being formally accused of crime, they must be told what that crime is.
- The right to counsel: Generally, in a criminal matter, when someone faces the possibility of a jail or prison sentence, they have the right to a court appointed attorney if they cannot afford to retain an attorney on their own. This is a constitutional right covered by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.
- The right against self-incrimination: The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides this right. You do not have to testify in your own criminal case, and you do not have to make admissions or statements to law enforcement.
- The right of confrontation: This is basically the right to defend yourself in a court of law and confront your accusers and opposing witnesses through cross examination.
- The right of due process: This right is covered under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states, “no state may deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
- The right to a speedy trial: This is an often-misunderstood right because it is not very clearly defined with regards to what is speedy and what is not. It is meant to prevent prejudicial delays in your case, but nothing more.
- The right to bail: This is not an absolute right. In some instances, a defendant can be held without bail if they are found to be a danger to society or a flight risk.
- The right to a preliminary examination: The main purpose of a preliminary examination is to get some information from the officer and determine whether the state had probable cause to charge you with a crime.
- The right to a unanimous verdict: In order to be found guilty by jury, each individual juror must unanimously find you guilty.
- The right to compel the attendance of witnesses: A criminal defendant has the right to call witnesses to testify on their behalf.
Other rights of criminal defendants
This is not an exhaustive list; the right to discovery and all other constitutional rights always apply to criminal matters. There are also several other rights that your criminal defense attorney can explain to you.
If you need a South Carolina criminal defense attorney, contact us.