If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Greenville or anywhere else in South Carolina, you need to retain experienced and skilled criminal defense attorneys. You want to give yourself the best chance to avoid jail time. And the best Greenville criminal defense attorneys maintain a full arsenal of defense strategies to fight for your rights.
With this article, we start a series of articles detailing some of the best defense strategies. Some strategies apply to any type of criminal charge, others are more tailored to specific crimes. Your skilled Greenville, SC legal team will select the best strategies to give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction. Here are five such strategies.
Note that these are evidence/pre-trial defense strategies. There are separate strategies with respect to how to appeal a conviction.
Greenville SC Criminal Defense Strategies:
- No Valid “Reasonable Suspicion” to Stop the Accused
Under US and South Carolina law, law enforcement are permitted lawfully to stop you in the street and do a “pat down” search but only if the officers have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or is likely to be committed. Likewise, the police are allowed to stop your vehicle for a brief detention to verify your driver’s license. But, again, the officers must have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or about to be committed. These brief detentions what are commonly called “Terry Stops” named after the US Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
South Carolina follows the same rule. See, State v. Tindall, 698 SE 2d 203 (S. Car. Supreme Court 2010). For the police to have “reasonable suspicion,” the police must have “articulable facts” — not just a “hunch” — that would lead a reasonable police officer to believe a crime had been committed or was about to be committed. If the police office did not, in fact, have a valid “reasonable suspicion, then any evidence discovered during the Terry Stop cannot be used.
- Misidentification — Mistaken Identity
Some criminal defense strategies are factual based that depend on the unique facts of your case. Misidentification by a witness — that is, it was NOT you at the crime scene — is common. This is particularly true if the crime allegedly occurs at night, where actions take place in the dark and in shadows. Witnesses that some distance from the scene are also prone to misidentify the culprits.
Alibi is another factual defense and often goes hand-in-hand with misidentification. Here, the facts show that you were NOT at the crime scene at the time the crime was committed. The word “alibi” means “elsewhere” and it is a type of “impossibility” defense. The accused provides evidence that he/she was at another place at the time of the crime and, as such, he/she could not have committed the crime — it was impossible. To be successful, the alibi must cover the entire time when his/her presence was required for accomplishment of the crime and that the accused was at a specific place far enough away to make it impossible for him/her to be at the crime scene. It is not enough for the accused to say that he was not at the scene and must therefore have been elsewhere; there must be more proof than that.
- Chain of Custody Errors
In general, for police evidence to be admissible, the police must show a proper “chain of custody.” This means showing who had custody of the evidence from the moment it was seized or taken up until the time of trial (or until a test was performed). The issue is possible tampering or spoliation or a mix-up of samples/evidence. For example, a very old South Carolina case excluded a blood sample in a DUI case because proper chain of custody could not be shown. See Benton v. Pellum, 100 SE 2d 534 (S. Car. Supreme Court 1957).
- Witness Coaching
As discussed above, some criminal defense strategies are based on the facts and circumstances, some are based on claims related to the law and, then, there is another category based on events that occur during and around the time of trial. One such defense involves watching for and charging the prosecution (or others) with witness coaching. Coaching is related to, but distinct from witness tampering. Coaching occurs before testimony and sometime in court during the live testimony. Essentially, someone — the prosecution or an attorney is proving the “right” answers to a witness for the witness to remember or regurgitate. If coaching is proven, that is grounds for a new trial. See State v. Smith, 679 SE 2d 176 (S. Car. Supreme Court 2009) (new trial affirmed where child’s aunt was mouthing words and making nonverbal signals — coaching — to child during his testimony in prosecution for criminal sexual conduct with a minor).
Call Greenville, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer H. Chase Harbin Today
For more information, contact the proven criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of H. Chase Harbin. Contact our office today via email or by telephone. We have offices in Greenville and Pickens, South Carolina.