What you Need to Know about the South Carolina Statewide Grand Jury
South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyers
The Statewide Grand Jury (SGJ) was created by the Legislature of South Carolina in 1989 to Prosecute cases on a larger scale.
The Attorney General’s Office assigns Assistant Attorney Generals to handle SGJ cases in its office.
- State Grand Jury Panel
The State Grand Jury Panel is comprised of people from all over the State which come to hear cases usually once a month. The panel meets in secret and is bound by secrecy laws not permitting the Panel to discuss what happens before it with anyone.
- State Grand Jury Subpoenas
The State Grand Jury has the power to issue to subpoenas for documents and for persons. If you receive a subpoena or are called to testify before the SGJ or called to produce documents to the SGJ you should contact a lawyer first. Strom Law Firm, LLC has lawyers experienced in assisting individuals and corporations with SGJ investigations and subpoenas.
- Crimes Covered by the Statewide Grand Jury
The State Grand Jury only has legislative authority to prosecute certain crimes. See this link for a list and explanation of the crimes the SGJ can prosecute.
- Arrest by SLED
Most SGJ cases are investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division. Therefore, usually, a SLED agent will be assigned to the prosecution and investigation of your case.
- Bond Settings
If you are arrested or indicted by the State Grand Jury, your bond hearing will be before the Chief Administrative Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Columbia, South Carolina. More than likely you will be held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia awaiting your bond hearing before a Circuit Court Judge.
- Preliminary Hearings
If you are arrested on an Arrest Warrant by the SGJ, you have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is a hearing held before a Circuit Court Judge who will determine whether or not there is enough probable cause for your case to go to the State Grand Jury. If your case is bound over by the Judge, your case will then be sent to the State Grand Jury for indictment, if your case is dismissed then your case will either remain dismissed or the Prosecutor will have the opportunity to take your case before the State Grand Jury. If at the time of your preliminary hearing your case has already been indicted, you are not entitled to a preliminary hearing per the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure.
- Proffer Agreements
Proffer agreements are contracts between individuals and the State. The purpose of a proffer agreement is for the individual to tell the State the truth about their involvement and the involvement of others in criminal activity, while protecting the individual from self-incrimination. Proffer agreements like Cooperation and Plea agreements are complicated agreements that should always be discussed with a criminal defense attorney before signing.
Individuals charged with crimes by the State Grand Jury, usually have an opportunity to cooperate with the S.C. Attorney General’s Office and SLED. Doing so is a very complicated process and should only be done after consulting with a federal criminal defense attorney. Usually cooperation involves signing a proffer agreement or plea agreement with the government and being 100% truthful with them concerning your involvement and the involvement of others. No person accused of a crime by the State Grand Jury should start cooperating with the Attorney General’s Office or SLED without first consulting with a criminal defense lawyer that handles State Grand Jury cases.
- Judge Assigned
In your State Grand Jury Case, once an indictment has been returned against you, a Judge and County will be assigned. This Judge and County will remain with you throughout your case and all matters will go before this Judge.
- Plea Agreements
Plea agreements like proffer agreements are a contract between an individual accused of a crime and the State. Plea agreements describe what an individual accused of a crime will be pleading guilty to and any stipulations or binding agreements that may be made between the State and the individual. Again, you should not enter into a plea agreement with the government without first seeking the advice of a criminal defense lawyer that handles State Grand Jury cases.
- Jury Trial
In your General Sessions Court case you are entitled to a jury trial. A General Sessions Court Trial would have 12 people from the County where your charge is. During this trial you would be entitled to a lawyer, remain silent and not testify or to testify on your behalf, and to confront your accusers through your attorney.
- Bench Trial
A bench trial can be held in General Sessions Court. This is a trial held before a Judge only and no jury. Usually, the Judge will hear testimony from the officer or affiant of your arrest and testimony from you and/or any witnesses you may have. Of course with a bench trial also, you have the right to remain silent or you may choose to testify and present relevant witnesses on your own behalf.
In State Court, Judges have wide ranges of sentencing possibilities to choose from. Judges can choose from a time-served sentence, to a fine, to probation, to home-detention, to active incarceration. You should know and be aware of what the maximum and minimum sentence is with your specific charges and the collateral consequences of that type of charge. Some criminal offenses in South Carolina, including all drug offenses, will cause a suspension of your privilege to drive in South Carolina. Make sure you know all of the consequences of the crime you are charged with before you make a decision on how to dispose of your case.
An appeal may be taken from any case in State Court within 10 days after the completion of your case. Failure to file within ten days, except in very limited situations, will cause a loss of your appellate rights. An appeal is where you decide to challenge your conviction or something that happened in your case with a higher court. If you are convicted in your Statewide Grand Jury case you would appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court or the South Carolina Court of Appeals, depending on your case.
A Post-Conviction Relief Action is where you can file a case against the State of South Carolina for violating one of your Constitutional Rights, usually your right to effective assistance of Counsel. PCRs, as they are commonly known, must be filed within one year of the date of your conviction, or within one year of the conclusion of your appeal, whichever is later, except in very limited circumstances.
You may apply for a Pardon of your criminal history at any time after your conviction. It usually takes about nine months for a hearing to be scheduled before the Pardon Board. One important idea to remember when considering a Pardon is that it does not expunge your criminal history. The Strom Law Firm, LLC handles Pardon applications and hearings and would be pleased to represent you before the Pardon board.
Have a loved one in custody? At some point, most inmates of the South Carolina Department of Corrections will come up for Parole. During these Parole Hearings your loved ones are allowed to have an attorney represent their interests before the Parole Board. The Strom Law Firm, LLC represents people incarcerated and awaiting parole hearings. Please contact us to discuss your right to a Parole Hearing.
The criminal defense lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC provide an aggressive, well planned defense and will fight to have your charges reduced or even dismissed. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your situation and to hear how we can help.