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How to Prove I’ve Been Wrongfully Convicted

A person’s rights to a fair trial and the assistance of legal counsel are essential aspects of the American justice system. So much so, the framers ensured these rights within the United States Constitution. Even after a person is charged and arrested, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Having faith in our justice system entails trusting that an innocent person will be found not guilty at the time of sentencing.

There are, however, cases in which the justice system fails. If you know that you are innocent of a crime but have been wrongly convicted, you will generally have an opportunity to appeal the conviction. If the appeal fails, you can file a petition for a Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) challenge.

The PCR process is arduous, complicated, and full of red tape. The necessary steps are usually far too complex for an individual to undertake on their own. A South Carolina Post-Conviction Relief attorney can help guide you through the process and advocate for you in court.

What Steps Are Involved in a PCR Challenge?

In South Carolina, a PCR challenge is only available to those who have already appealed the conviction in their case. After the direct denial of an appeal, they are then eligible to file for PCR as the defendant (applicant). For this reason, South Carolina courts tend to refer to PCR as the second step of an appeals process. The application is complex, and it is important to promptly file it with the court and serve it to the appropriate parties.

As an applicant, you must issue detailed arguments and evidence about why you deserve PCR. This can be particularly challenging if you are currently incarcerated, but an attorney who has experience with the PCR process may be able to assist in expediting it.

After the PCR application is submitted, the court may call a hearing in which the applicant’s attorney can argue for a new trial. As part of this hearing, the defendant’s counsel must demonstrate the grounds for the original trial resulting in a wrongful conviction.

What Are the Grounds for a PCR Challenge?

In general, Post-Conviction Relief issues are based on a claim of ineffective assistance from the counsel who defended you at the time of your conviction. This might mean that your trial attorneys were operating at a level that the state considers sub-standard or that their approach brought undue prejudice to your case. 

post conviction reliefAn effective criminal defense attorney can help individuals who were wrongfully convicted under the following circumstances:

  • Counsel failed to object to inadmissible evidence
  • Arguments of the prosecution lacked credibility
  • A judge gave improper instructions to the jury
  • Counsel failed to object to a court trial error
  • Subject matter jurisdiction was deficient
  • Post-trial discovery of new evidence
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Illegal or expired sentence

Is There a Time Limit on Petitioning for a PCR Challenge?

If you are considering challenging a wrongful conviction, time is of the essence. South Carolina delimits a one-year statute of limitations for Post-Conviction Relief. This means that you must submit your challenge within one year of receiving your conviction. If you miss this deadline, you will lose your right to petition for PCR. A criminal defense attorney who has experience handling Post-Conviction Relief matters can help ensure ­­you file your case in a timely manner.

Contact an Experienced Columbia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

A wrongful conviction has consequences that go far beyond criminal penalties, such as jail time and fines. Having a conviction on your record can make it very challenging to secure a place to live, find employment, or enroll in higher education. Sometimes a wrongful conviction can even result in the loss of civil rights. It simply isn’t worth allowing a conviction to remain on your record if you are innocent of the crime.

Suppose you believe that your conviction occurred due to ineffective counsel or other prejudicial circumstances, and you are still within the one-year statute of limitations. If this is the case, you do not want to miss your opportunity to file for Post-Conviction Relief.

The Columbia criminal defense attorneys at Truslow & Truslow are here to help you file the application and ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Contact us at (803) 256-6276 today for a free consultation. We will assess the particulars of your case and give you a straightforward assessment of what your PCR options are. Don’t wait to reach out. We’re ready to help. 

What You Need to Know About Your Assault Charge

judge ruling assault charge in south carolinaAn arrest for assault can lead to severe penalties, including imprisonment. A conviction can ruin your reputation, family, and future. If you’re forced to serve a prison sentence, you can experience challenges upon your release. It’s much more complicated looking for a job and a place to live. You also might lose your right to vote or own a firearm.

South Carolina courts take assault seriously. There are varying types and degrees of assault charges a person can face. The consequences of an assault conviction can be far-reaching and affect every part of your life. Even if a judge dismisses your case or a jury finds you not guilty, you could still face the negative stigma of the initial arrest. You could lose your job and suffer the burden of a criminal record.

What Is Assault?

There are four separate categories of assault. The charge depends on the type of offense committed. Charges typically include assault and battery. Assault is the threat of bodily harm, while battery is unwanted touching of another person.

According to South Carolina Code 16-3-600(E)(1), assault and battery in the third degree, also called simple assault, occurs when a person unlawfully causes someone’s injury or offers or attempts to injure another person and they have the ability to cause injury.

South Carolina Code 16-30-600(D)(1) defines assault and battery in the second degree as an offense someone commits by unlawfully injuring another person or offering or attempting to injure them while having the ability to do so and:

  • Causes moderate bodily injury or could have caused moderate bodily injury;
  • Engages in nonconsensual touching of private parts under or above the clothing.

Assault and battery in the first degree as defined under South Carolina Code 16-30-600(C)(1) involves causing an unlawful injury to another person and:

  • Nonconsensual touching of private parts above or under clothing with lascivious and lewd intent; or
  • It happens while committing kidnapping, robbery, theft, or burglary.

First-degree assault and battery could also involve attempting or offering to cause injury to another person while having the ability to do so and this act:

  • Occurs while committing burglary, robbery, kidnapping, or theft; or
  • Involves using a method likely to result in great bodily injury or death.

Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature is a severe charge of assault and battery. Someone commits this crime if they unlawfully cause injury to another person and:

  • The person suffers great bodily harm; or
  • The act occurs using a method likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

Sentencing for Assault and Battery

assault charge defense attorneyAssault and battery in the third and second degrees are considered misdemeanor offenses. However, if you committed assault and battery in the first degree or of a high and aggravated nature, you can face a felony sentence.

Penalties for assault and battery convictions depend on the degree of the charge. South Carolina issues sentencing guidelines judges can use to impose the appropriate sentence based on the type of crime and its severity. Misdemeanor offenses resulting in less than a one-year prison sentence are exempt from the classification system.

The maximum sentences allowed for assault and battery are below.

Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature

  • Up to twenty years in prison

Assault and Battery in the First Degree

  • A maximum of ten years in prison

Assault and Battery in the Second Degree

  • No more than three years in prison;
  • Up to a $2,500 fine; or
  • Both.

Assault and Battery in the Third Degree

  • Up to thirty days of imprisonment;
  • A maximum of a$500 fine; or
  • Both.

If convicted, committing assault and battery with a carried or concealed weapon could result in a harsher sentence. The penalty for this misdemeanor offense could include:

  • Up to a $200 fine;
  • At least three months but no more than twelve months in prison; or
  • Both.

This sentence is in addition to sentencing for the assault and battery charge if you’re found guilty of carrying or concealing a deadly weapon during the crime.

Common Defenses Against an Assault Charge

Multiple strategies are available to defend a person facing assault and battery charges. The most common include:

  • Alibi
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Defense of property
  • Constitutional rights violation
  • Coercion or duress
  • Being incorrectly identified by a witness as the perpetrator
  • Affirmative defenses

You should consult a criminal defense lawyer immediately following your arrest to determine the appropriate defense to use in your case.

Contact Truslow & Truslow

Since 2009, Truslow & Truslow has fought for the rights of our clients facing criminal charges. We bring more than 50 years of legal experience to each case we take. When you hire us, our team will review the circumstances of the crime to create an effective defense. You can count on us to tirelessly work to try to secure your freedom and future.

If you were arrested or charged with assault, call Truslow & Truslow at (803) 256-6276 today. One of our experienced and aggressive Columbia criminal defense lawyers can meet you for a confidential consultation. We’re available 24/7 to speak with you when you need assistance.

What To Do If You Are Convicted of Sexual Assault

sexual assault convictionA sexual assault conviction can have lasting consequences. It will be hard to find an employer who will hire someone with a history of sex crimes, and those jobs that are available usually don’t pay well. You may also have trouble being approved for a place to live, gaining custody of your children, obtaining a healthcare license, or pursuing higher education. If you are required to register as a sex offender, you will face many restrictions, potentially for the rest of your life. Since the sex offender registry is public, it may also affect your social relationships with family, friends, and neighbors even decades after your offense.

If you have already gone to trial and been found guilty of sexual assault, you may feel there are not a lot of legal options left. However, if you feel you were wrongfully convicted, a skilled attorney can help you explore options for making an appeal to have the decision reversed or to obtain a lesser sentence that correctly matches the crime you committed.

Penalties For Sexual Assault

Not all sexual assault cases are the same, and the penalties differ greatly depending on the severity of the crime. According to the South Carolina code, all criminal sexual conduct is considered a felony and comes with stiff penalties. In general, criminal sexual conduct is divided into the following categories:

  • First Degree – Includes the use of aggravated force or physical confinement while committing sexual assault. This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
  • Second Degree – Includes the use of aggravated coercion to commit sexual assault. This is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  • Third Degree – Includes the use of force or coercion without aggravating circumstances to commit sexual assault, or the victim was physically or mentally incapacitated, and force was not used. This is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Criminal sexual conduct with minors is also separated into first, second, and third-degree offenses, and warrants higher penalties than offenses towards adult victims. The age of the victim, as well as the age of the offender at the time the crime was committed, are taken into account. Some situations may warrant a sentence of life in prison, and the death penalty is even possible in some cases involving a minor.

Registering As a Sex Offender

registering sex offenderSouth Carolina law section 23-3-430 requires that anyone who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct must register as a sex offender. This will subject you to many restrictions such as where you can live and work, and your registration must be updated regularly.

There are three tiers of sex offenders:

  • Tier I: You must verify your registration annually for at least 15 years
  • Tier II: You must verify your registration every six months for at least 25 years.
  • Tier III: The most serious of the tiers, you must verify your registration every 90 days for the rest of your life.

If your offense involved minors, the restrictions imposed on sex offenders will be much stricter than if the offense involved an adult.

Making an Appeal

If you feel that you were unfairly convicted of sexual assault, you may have the option to make an appeal to a higher court that the conviction was not legally correct. This trial will usually only reexamine the court proceedings from the previous trial and the goal is to determine whether the decision was made based on legal error. Additional evidence and witnesses are not considered during this process.

Making an appeal is difficult, and only a small percentage of appellants have their decision reversed. Due to the complicated nature of the appeals process, it is crucial that you seek help from an experienced attorney immediately to protect your legal rights.

Reducing the Sentence

It is also possible to have your sentence reduced after you are convicted if additional evidence becomes available or in various other circumstances. An attorney will be able to help you understand how the law applies to your specific situation and whether or not this would be a possibility for you.

Contact Truslow & Truslow Today

Being convicted of sexual assault has life-altering consequences, whether you are guilty or not. Even if you made some poor choices, you deserve to have legal representation with your best interest in mind. Sexual assault is a serious offense and is nothing to take lightly, but your punishment should match the crime committed.

If you have received an unfair conviction or an excessive sentence for sexual assault, the South Carolina criminal defense attorneys at Truslow & Truslow may be able to help. Contact us today at (803) 256-6276 for a consultation.

Can I Get a Felony Expunged?

 Having a criminal conviction on your record can be a major impairment. It can impact your ability to get an education, start a career, secure a loan, and find housing. In short, it may be a barricade to improving your personal and professional situation. However, there is a way to get certain convictions removed from your record. The process is called expungement.

How does the process work, and are you eligible to apply for an expungement? At Truslow & Truslow, we want to break down the expungement process for you and reveal which felonies may be eligible to be removed from your criminal record.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is a court order that removes an arrest or conviction from your criminal record. In South Carolina, the order is generally called an “Order for Destruction of Arrest Records” and must be signed by a judge. The document dictates that all agencies destroy records pertaining to an individual’s arrest, mug shots, fingerprints, and other official records. In essence, an expungement can give an individual a “clean slate.”

Records Eligible to Be Expunged in South Carolina

Only certain charges and convictions are eligible to be expunged. These offenses include:

  • Non-Convictions. Non-convictions, such as charges that were dropped, dismissed, or resulted in a not-guilty judgment. While you may not have been convicted of any crime, just being accused of an offense can be enough to damage a reputation. Non-convictions are eligible for expungement from a person’s record even if that person was never convicted of an offense.
  • Misdemeanor Convictions. A first offense misdemeanor that is punishable by not more than 30 days of jail time and a fine of $1,000 can potentially be expunged.
  • fraudulent checkFraudulent Checks. A first offense conviction for fraudulent checks charges may be expunged.
  • Blue Light Offense. A first offense for failing to stop for a law enforcement vehicle when signaled may be expunged.
  • Simple Drug Possession. A first offense conviction for simple possession of almost any type of drug or controlled substance might be expunged, as long as the individual does not have subsequent drug convictions for three years.
  • Possession With Intent to Distribute. A first offense conviction for possession with intent to distribute any drug could be expunged if the individual does not have other drug convictions for 20 years.
  • Charges resolved by successful completion of a court-order program. If an individual successfully completes a pre-trial intervention program, alcohol education program, or traffic education program, their conviction may be eligible to be expunged.
  • Juvenile Offenses. If the offense was non-violent, a juvenile may be able to have their record expunged if they are currently over the age of 18 and have no prior convictions that would carry a maximum sentence of five years.

If you have questions about whether your felony conviction can be legally expunged, consult with a skilled South Carolina defense attorney.

Records that Cannot Be Expunged

Some convictions cannot be removed from an individual’s criminal record. Examples of crimes that cannot be expunged include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration
  • Motor vehicle violations
  • Hunting, fishing, and gaming charges
  • Serious or heinous felony convictions

Felony convictions for most violent crimes, including murder can never be removed from a person’s criminal record.

What Is the Process for Expunging a Criminal Record?

To request an expungement, you must apply by contacting the Solicitors Office in the county where your charges originated. You will be asked to fill out an application and provide court documents about your conviction or charges. Jurisdictions may have different requirements and administrative fees. An attorney can help you determine which office you need to get in touch with and help you track down the records and paperwork you will need to provide.

Expungements can be a time-consuming process. They do not happen overnight and may take two to six weeks to complete. In some cases, the process may take even longer.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle a Felony Expungement?

criminal background expungementStrictly speaking, no. You can handle an expungement request on your own. However, just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should. An attorney can be a valuable resource when applying for an expungement.

A skilled defense attorney can review your circumstances to make sure that an expungement is your best legal option and that you are eligible to apply. An attorney can also locate the Solicitors Office that has jurisdiction over your claim. In addition, an experienced attorney will be able to help you track down all the necessary documentation the Solicitor’s Office requires. Failing to provide all the correct paperwork can slow down the process and potentially end up in a rejection.

You may also want to consult with an attorney to talk about other legal options if you are not eligible for an expungement.

Reach Out to Truslow & Truslow Today

You don’t have to live in the shadow of your conviction forever. Expungement may be an available option to help you get out from under the cloud of a criminal record. To discuss whether your felony conviction or criminal charges are eligible to be expunged in South Carolina, contact Truslow & Truslow.

We want to offer you a confidential consultation. Call our office at (803) 256-6276 to schedule yours today.

Amnesty Week Helps SC Drivers with Suspended Licenses

This Monday marked the first day of Driver Suspension Eligibility Week in South Carolina. Also known as amnesty week, March 13 through 17 offers drivers with suspended licenses a viable option to get back on the road. During amnesty week, drivers with certain license suspensions could be eligible to have their licenses reinstated. According to the South Carolina DMV, the following types of suspensions might qualify for eligibility:

  • Excessive points for someone under the age of 18
  • Operating an unlicensed taxi
  • Operating an uninsured vehicle that they did not own
  • Operating or allowing someone else to operate an uninsured vehicle
  • Driving under suspension, excluding alcohol or drug related convictions

If you fall under one of these categories, head to the DMV this week to see if you can get your license suspension cleared or reduced. Especially if one bad mistake caused your license to be suspended, this week could be a great opportunity to get you back on track. Even if your license suspension is not eligible for amnesty week, a qualified Columbia attorney could be able to help you have your suspension revoked. At Truslow & Truslow, we protect people who are facing the negative consequences of a single mistake. Contact us at (803) 256-6276 to see what we can do for you.

Court’s Decision Affirmed – License Suspension 5 Years after DUI Conviction is Unfair

In a recent decision by the South Carolina State Court of Appeals, it was confirmed that the suspension of Anna Wilson’s driver’s license five years after her DUI conviction was unlawful. Namely, the suspension violates standards of fundamental fairness and due process rights. The decision comes after an appeal made by the DMV, which claimed the circuit court’s original ruling—that Wilson’s delayed license suspension was unfair—went against precedent set by earlier cases. The legal analysis in response to the appeal found the circumstances of the case mentioned by the DMV were not the same as the Wilson case and, therefore, the case was not sufficient evidence to uphold Wilson’s delayed license suspension.

In November 2008, Anna Wilson was arrested for a DUI by the Irmo Police Department and subsequently convicted. Following her conviction, Wilson paid all the requisite fines and completed an Alcohol and Drug Safety Program. The next year, while trying to obtain a restricted driver’s license, Wilson was informed that the DMV had no record of her DUI conviction. In response, Wilson made calls to the Irmo Town Clerk and her insurance agent to inquire why the DMV did not receive her DUI conviction ticket. Many years later, after eventually receiving a certified copy of Wilson’s DUI ticket in 2014, the DMV told Wilson that her license would be suspended because of her conviction five years prior.

Wilson immediately brought action against the DMV and a circuit court ruled the five-year administrative lag between her conviction and license suspension would violate her rights to fundamental fairness and cause her undue hardship. However, the DMV countered by filing an appeal of the decision and citing a previous case, State v. Chavis, wherein William Chavis’ license suspension one year after his conviction was upheld because it was not found to violate any due process rights.

The appeals court ruled the Chavis case differs from Wilson’s in that she actively sought resolution from her license suspension in 2009 by calling the Irmo Town Clerk and her insurance agent to inquire about the status of her conviction. Wilson’s testimony additionally stated she would have served her suspension earlier, had she known about it. These factors differ from the State v. Chavis case, wherein the court did not find a due process violation because Chavis did not seek to have his license suspension promptly ordered. Rather, he waited quietly during the administrative lag with the hope that his suspension would be overlooked or unenforced. As a result, the court noted that Chavis did not suffer any prejudice or undue burden. Furthermore, the court found that Wilson would face undue hardship from the license suspension that Chavis did not, resulting in an affirmation of the original ruling.

Navigating all of the repercussions of a DUI conviction alone can feel impossible. With so many civil and criminal penalties associated with an intoxicated driving charge, the support and counsel of a DUI attorney is urgent. If you are facing DUI charges, don’t hesitate to contact the legal team at Truslow & Truslow by calling our Columbia DUI defense attorneys at Truslow & Truslow. Our highly skilled DUI lawyers can fight for your interests and support you through this tumultuous time.

32 busted in SC narcotics raid

Authorities in Horry County stated on November 7 that they recently apprehended 32 people in a drug raid. Furthermore, they have recovered several firearms, thousands of dollars worth of various illegal drugs, and thousands of dollars in cash, an article of News 13 reported.

According to reports, the people arrested, including two juveniles, were charged accordingly and their mugshots were taken. Horry County police reportedly seized heroin worth $24,000, cocaine worth $5,100, marijuana worth $3,000, and crack cocaine worth $1,600. Authorities told reports they also confiscated a Mercedes Benz vehicle and cash worth $10,000. In a press conference, Police Chief Joseph Hill stressed the importance of educating young people while they are in school to help them avoid getting involved in drugs. Hill also said the police continue to find ways to prevent young people from doing drugs.

Facing drug charges can be frightening, especially if you are unaware of the penalties and you are being threatened with imprisonment. However, if this happens to you in Columbia, get in touch with a lawyer at Truslow & Truslow today by calling (803) 256-6276.

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