Greenville, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer
Facing criminal charges – and the chance you’ll spend time in jail – is likely one of the most frightening things that can happen to you. If you believe you are being investigated for a crime or you have been arrested and criminal charges are a possibility, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Happens If Law Enforcement Suspects Your Involvement in a Crime?
If law enforcement suspects you were involved in a crime, you can be arrested immediately or arrested after they have gathered information against you. It’s also possible to be arrested more than once for the same crime – this is the case if you are detained for a crime but law enforcement must let you go because they lack enough evidence to charge you. If they believe you are guilty but are unable to charge you, they will release you and continue to gather evidence until there is enough to arrest you and charge you at a later date.
Types of Criminal Charges
There are two basic types of criminal charges: misdemeanors and felonies. Both can result in jail time, though it’s less likely in the case of a misdemeanor, and both can affect your life long-term. It’s important that you reach out to a criminal defense lawyer any time you have charged pressed against you, whether they are related to a misdemeanor or a felony.
A misdemeanor offense is related to crimes that are considered less severe. If you are accused of a misdemeanor, you will be tried without a jury, but in front of a judge; however, you have the right to request a jury trial. Jail sentences that result from misdemeanor charges must be less than 180 days. Keep in mind that even if you are accused and convicted of a misdemeanor and you serve limited or no jail time, it still results in you having a criminal record – something that can affect you for the rest of your life. Some sex crimes are misdemeanors, which means you will be required to register on and remain on the sex offender registry for the rest of your life, too.
Felony charges are filed against you when you have committed what the legal system considered a more severe crime. There are times where the distinction between a felony and misdemeanor seems arbitrary and is not based on the specific factors related to the crime. For instance, multiple drunk driving arrests can result in felony charges, so despite committing the exact same crime as you’ve committed in the past, because you’ve committed the crime multiple times, it results in felony charges. Many states have a recidivist act put in place to deal with these sorts of legal situations.
All of the most serious crimes, including murder, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, arson, and treason, are felonies.
Jail time is more likely when you are accused of a felony, but it is possible for an experienced attorney to negotiate a reduction in jail time or to have the punishment include no jail time at all. This is rare, but when you are facing a loss of your freedom, it’s important to do all you can to keep the time you are incarcerated to as little as possible. Additionally, your attorney might also be able to negotiate other less harsh penalties, including lower fees or reduced probation time. There are many tools an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to compromise with one another, and in many cases, these negotiations will benefit you.
How Criminal Charges Affect Your Rights
There are some consequences you’ll face if convicted of a felony that cannot be negotiated by a lawyer. For instance, anyone convicted of a felony loses his or her right to vote, his or her right to possess a firearm, and his or her right to participate on a jury.
There are also a number of rights you are allowed to exercise when you are facing criminal charges. Many of these rights are designed to protect you and prevent you from being victimized by law enforcement and the legal system. The rights you have when facing felony charges are greater than those you have when facing misdemeanor charges. For instance, anyone facing felony charges has a:
- Right to counsel (attorney) if incarceration is possible
- Right to indictment by a grand jury or to have charges reviewed for probable cause during a preliminary examination
- Right to a jury trial if there is a chance a jail sentence will be 180 days or more
What Happens after I’m Arrested?
What occurs during the arrest process is based on when the arrest occurs. It’s possible for you to be arrested during or immediately following the crime for which you are accused, or law enforcement can gather evidence against you and arrest you after the crime was supposedly committed.
Once you are arrested, you’ll be booked by law enforcement, which means they’ll gather identifying information about you, take your mugshot and fingerprints, and thoroughly searched. Any evidence found during the search can be used against you in court.
If you are sent to jail following your arrest, the police will prepare an intake report regarding your current physical condition. This information can also be used against you in court. So, for instance, if you are intoxicated when you are arrested and booked, that will be noted in the intake report and used to support the case against you in court.
There is a short period of time following your arrest in which the legal system must determine if you are eligible for bail. The bail amount might be listed in the arrest warrant if you are not arrested during the supposed crime. Bail amounts can also be determined by a judge during a bail hearing, which must take place no more than 72 hours following your arrest. Sometimes no bail is needed for your release, and you will be released on recognizance, which means you are required to appear in court as instructed in the future.
When Should You Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney?
In most cases, the sooner you contact an attorney, the better. It’s always better to have an experienced criminal lawyer guiding you through each step of the process after you are accused of a crime. Not only are they able to determine if you are being treated fairly under the law, but they can also advise you and ensure you do not say or do anything to make your situation worse. If you suspect you are being investigated for a crime or you have been accused of a crime, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Your attorney will help you through each of the phases of criminal charges. They can explain your rights to you, give you instructions on what to do if you are contacted by police – even if the contact does not include an accusation – and accompany you to the police station if making a statement is in your best interest. An attorney can also arrange for you to surrender to a charge if you choose to do so and avoid the drama of you being arrested at work or home. Finally, an attorney can negotiate on your behalf and might be able to get charges against you reduced to a lesser degree.
It’s important to keep in mind, especially if you are innocent of the crime for which you are accused, law enforcement is not on your side. There are people who have made the mistake of talking to law enforcement on their own in an attempt to be helpful, only to find themselves charged with a crime. It is the job of law enforcement to solve whatever crime is in question, not look out for your best interest. Unfortunately, your best intentions can get you into a lot of trouble. If you have a desire to help law enforcement, you should speak to an attorney before providing information to the police. Retaining a skilled criminal defense lawyer is the only way you can ensure your rights will be protected and that the information you provide to law enforcement will not be used against you.
What Should I Do If I am Facing Federal Charges?
Federal crimes are most often those that are investigated before an arrest is made. Most people charged with federal crimes have some indication their arrest is coming because investigators have already spoken to friends, family members or co-worker, or because their homes or workplaces have been searched. There are also instances in which you will receive official notification that you are being investigated for a federal crime.
A federal crime investigation does not mean you will be charged with a federal crime, but it does mean you are in a serious situation and you should contact an attorney immediately. The sooner you and your attorney are able to discuss the charges against you the better.
Just as you would with any other type of crime, the moment you suspect you are being investigated for a federal crime you should contact an attorney. Federal law enforcement will use the same tricks as other law enforcement officials to gather information. They will ask you questions or conduct their investigation without being totally clear about the situation. Many will act as if they are your friend or they are trying to help you, all the while gathering information they intend to use against you at a later time. You should never share information with federal law enforcement without first consulting an attorney.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Greenville, South Carolina
Facing criminal charges, whether they are federal charges, or charges related to a felony or misdemeanor can leave you feeling insecurely frightened, and victimized. At The Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin, we understand that nobody is perfect and often, an arrest results because a person has done nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are many circumstances that can affect what happens after you are charged with a crime, including the actions taken by law enforcement. Even if you have committed a crime, how police respond to that crime can play a role in your conviction. Law enforcement is required to behave in a certain manner and follow certain steps, and if they make a mistake, it can benefit you.
Chase Harbin has experience working with clients throughout Greenville who have been accused of crimes. He is a former Violent Crimes and Drug Prosecutor, and he understands how the legal system works. The team at The Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin fight to ensure your rights are protected and use all of their available resources to assist you during this difficult time. Over the years, Chase and his team have built a network of resources, including an in-house investigator who is a former master deputy with the Greenville Sheriff’s Office. The best defense you can build includes people who understand the complexities of criminal investigations and who are able to use their knowledge and experience to help you fight back.
It’s impossible to guarantee a positive outcome for every client, but the team at The Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin do everything they can to help each client. We provide free initial consultations to discuss the details of your case and determine the next best step to take. We work to keep law enforcement accountable for their actions, and when appropriate, we challenge warrants, witness statements, evidence, testimonies, and the arrest itself.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or could be facing criminal charges, we want to help. All charges, no matter how minor they might seem, must be taken seriously. A criminal investigation, especially one that results in an arrest or conviction, can change your life forever.
Contact a Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
For more information or to schedule a consultation with an experienced Greenville, South Carolina criminal defense attorney, contact The Law Offices of H. Chase Harbin at 864.349.5356.