Beaufort County Criminal Court hears all criminal cases in Beaufort County. Below you will find specific information about criminal cases and how they are handled in Beaufort County.
Arraignments in Beaufort County
During an arraignment in Beaufort County, a defendant appears before the court and the judge reads the charges that have been filed against the accused and also informs the defendant of his/her rights. During the arraignment in Beaufort County, the defendant can choose to plead one of the following 1) Guilty 2) Not Guilty or 3) No Contest. If the defendant enters a plea of Not Guilty, a date for trial is set. In the event of a Guilty or No Contest Plea in Beaufort County the defendant may be sentenced at that time or the sentencing may take place at a later date.
Jury Deliberations in Beaufort County
In Beaufort County, jury deliberations will take place in a jury trial after the prosecution and defense have presented their cases and rested. At this point, the judge will provide a list of instructions to the jury about what they are allowed and not allowed to do and what verdict options are available for them to decide. The jury will be sent to a private room to discuss the evidence presented in the case and attempt to reach a unaminous decision. When a unaminous decision is reached, the jury will inform the judge that they have reached a verdict and will return to the courtroom for the verdict to be read allowed. In the event that the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the jury results in a deadlock and a mistrial is declared.
Right to Jury Trial
For “Serious Crimes”, those that can have a potential penalty of 6 months in jail OR a minimum $500 penalty, the US Constitution guarantees a right to trial by jury. This is guaranteed by Article III of the Constitution and the 6th Amendment. The accused has the ability to waive their right to trial by jury.
Can I appeal a guilty verdict?
If found guilty, a defendant may decide to appeal his case to an appelate court. The appellate court will not retry the case, they will examine the proceedings in the lower court to make sure they were done in a legal manner. The appellate court can either uphold the original conviction, or determine that due to errors made in the original trial, that there must be a retrial, resentencing or a complete dismissal of the charges.
Beaufort County Criminal Court hearings
Criminal hearings in Beaufort County will take place at the Beaufort County Criminal Courts. Please see here for a list of the Beaufort County Criminal Court Locations.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
The 6th Amendment guarantees you the right to an attorney whether or not you can afford one. If you cannot afford one, a public defender will be appointed by the court to represent you.
Who can help me in Beaufort County?
For general information about your case the Beaufort County court clerk will be able to provide legal information about your specific criminal case. Legal information is not legal advice though, the court clerk will only be able to provide information about your case, like date/time of hearings what will occur at the hearing and what you may be required to do in the hearing. They cannot provide advice about what you should do or what the best legal options may be for your particular case. Only an attorney can provide legal advice and this is your best place for information about your specific criminal proceeding. If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney to represent you, a judge will appoint an attorney to represent you, this is most often a public defender.
Mandatory Appearances in Beaufort County Criminal Court
At a mandatory or required court appearance in Beaufort County, the defendant must appear before the court. In the event of a “Failure to Appear” the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. Note: not all criminal hearings are mandatory, in a non-mandatory hearing an attorney may appear on your behalf without you being in court.
At a sentence hearing the judge will inform the defendant of the sentence that will be imposed. This sometimes occurs at the same hearing in which the defendant is found guilty (either by trial or plea agreement). In can also occur at a later date, most often this is due to the complexity of the case where more time is needed to determine the appropriate sentence.
Can I request a Plea Agreement?
In Beaufort County you may be able to enter into a plea agreement depending upon the severity of the charges. It is also dependant upon the prosecution willing to accept a plea agreement. You can ask your attorney to attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution to avoid having a jury trial along with the potential for a more serious sentence. Approximately 9 out of 10 criminal cases usually end in a plea agreement.
Burden of Proof Requirement
In a criminal case in the United States, the burden of proof always requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. This is a high threshold that must be met by the prosecution when presenting evidence in a case. If the prosecution fails in it’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt the judge must find the defendant not guilty. In a jury trial, the judge will inform the jury what this burden is and their obligation to find the defendant not guilty if they feel the prosecution did prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutor in Beaufort County
In Beaufort County, the prosecutor is an attorney representing Beaufort County. In some cases, the prosecutor may actually represent South Carolina. For the most part, the prosecutor in Beaufort County has discretion to both decide whether to file charges and also negotiate a potential plea deal with the defendant.
Beaufort County Criminal Court Locations
Beaufort County Circuit Court
Address: 102 Ribaut Road, Suite 208, PO Box 1128, Beaufort, SC 29901
Fax: : 843-255-9412
Beaufort County Magistrate Court – Beaufort
Address: 104 Ribaut Road, PO Box 2207, Beaufort, SC 29901
Phone: 843-255-5700 Fax: 843-255-9427
Beaufort County Magistrate Court – Bluffton
Address: 4819 Bluffton Parkway, PO Box 840, Bluffton, SC 29910
Phone: 843-255-5610 Fax: 843-255-9510
Beaufort Municipal Court
Address: 1901 Boundary Street, Beaufort, SC 29902
Phone: 843-525-7036 Fax: 843-986-5602
Bluffton Municipal Court
Address: 20 Bridge Street, PO Box 386, Bluffton, SC 29910
Phone: 843-706-4530 Fax: 843-706-4503
Hilton Head Island Municipal Court
Address: 3 Town Center Court, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Phone: 843-341-4669 Fax: 843-785-4009
Port Royal Municipal Court
Address: 700 Paris Avenue, PO Drawer 9, Port Royal, SC 29935
Phone: 843-986-2229 Fax: 843-986-2256