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Frequently asked questions

Q: What is a Solicitor?
A: The Solicitor is an elected official responsible for overseeing the prosecution of all General Sessions and Family Court criminal cases. The state is divided into 16 judicial circuits, each consisting of two or three counties. Solicitor Barry Barnette is responsible for the 7th Judicial Circuit, an area that includes Spartanburg and Cherokee counties. Solicitor Barnette and his counterparts across the state run for reelection every four years.

Q: What is a bond hearing?
A: A court proceeding where the judge decides an amount of money or property that the defendant or their family must pay or put up to leave jail while they wait for the case to be called for trial. The bond serves as a guarantee the defendant will show up for trial. When setting a bond, the judge looks at the defendant's past criminal history, their ties to the community and the facts of the case and the defendant's prior criminal history. The judge must also consider the question of whether the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Q: What can I do to help with my case?
A: Be patient. Keep us informed of any new mailing addresses or telephone numbers that you obtain. Make sure the information you give us about your case is accurate. You also need to make sure you save any expenses related to your case. This will help us prove your case in court.

Q: What are first and second appearances?
A: First and second appearances are tools to organize the General Sessions criminal court docket. First appearances generally occur 30-60 days after the arrest. Hundreds of defendants are summoned at the same time to answer basic questions about how their case is going to proceed. Criminal defendants declare their intention to hire an attorney or represent themselves. The presiding judge places the case on a tract to be resolved within 6 months or a calendar year. Murder charges, sex crimes and other time-consuming prosecutions are placed on the one year tract. The projection is an estimate. It doesn’t necessarily mean the case will be resolved in the estimated time frame. Second appearances occur in less than six months from the date of arrest. Defendants and/or their attorneys are required to report whether the case will be a trial or a plea. A majority of the evidence involved in the case should be collected by the arresting law enforcement agency and provided to the defendant’s attorney by this point. The Clerk of Court places cases on the plea docket or the trial docket during this proceeding. It is not necessary for victims to attend first or second appearances. The Solicitor’s Office will notify victims in advance of guilty pleas and trials.

Q: Why does it take so long for cases to come to court?
A: The local criminal justice system is strapped with a backlog of more than 8,000 pending criminal cases. About 200 new cases come into the system every week. The Solicitor's Office strives to move cases through the system in a timely fashion but there are factors that influence the pace of movement. There is a limited amount of court time every year. A large number of criminal defendants request jury trials.
Complicated cases take more time to prepare. Cases are often delayed while important pieces of evidence are tested by State Law Enforcement Division. SLED lab technicians serve police departments all over the state. They often have a huge backlog of items to be tested.

Q: What kinds of cases are heard in Family Court?
A: Generally, criminal cases where the defendants are 16-years-old or younger. Juveniles who commit felonies that carry 15 years or more are tried in General Sessions Court.

Q: What are my rights as a victim?
A: You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. You should be informed when the defendant is arrested, released from custody, or has escaped. You should be notified about court proceedings - bond hearings, preliminary hearings, arraignments, guilty pleas, jury trials, restitution hearings, etc. and given the opportunity to speak to the judge at the appropriate times. You have the right to meet with the investigating police officer and the prosecutor before the trial. You have the right to have restitution ordered for crime-related losses. If you need help, you have the right to seek the assistance of a victim advocate, a person who can help you understand the many challenges of the criminal justice system. Victim advocates can help through court accompaniment, precourt meetings to address your concerns. You can also apply for funds to help with medical bills, funeral bills, counseling and lost wages through the Victim's Compensation Fund.

Q: What is the Victim's Compensation Fund?
A: The Victim's Compensation Fund is a source of financial assistance for victims and their family members who have been affected by violent crime. Some of the eligibility requirements include submitting an application 180 days from the date of the crime and continued cooperation with law enforcement throughout their investigation. The crime must have occurred in South Carolina for payment to occur. Victim compensation funds will assist in the payment of medical expenses, lost wages, counseling and burial expenses. Victim advocates with police departments or the Solicitor's Office help victims fill out applications and give information on how to collect the claim.

Q: What is a preliminary hearing?
A: This court procedure is the first step in a criminal case. A preliminary hearing is the right of the person charged with the crime. It is their chance to hear the evidence that the state has against them. A judge also decides if there is enough probable cause to charge defendant with the crime they are accused of committing.

Q: Can I report a crime to the Solicitor's Office?
A: In most cases, crimes must be reported to the police department that has jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. Solicitors prosecute crimes rather than investigate them.

Q: What is the purpose of a grand jury?
A: A grand jury is a panel of 18 citizens, selected each year, whose duty is to determine whether enough evidence exists to believe a crime has been committed. At least 12 of the 18 jurors must agree that the arresting agency has enough evidence for them to grant an indictment or a true bill. An indictment serves as a charging document that prosecutors must prove in General Sessions Court. In a case where the Grand Jury is not convinced a crime has been committed, a "no bill," is returned. The case is dismissed.

Q: What is transfer court?
A: Transfer court is available for defendants who have been charged with any crime that incurs up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. Defendants who are eligible have their cases presented to a Magistrate Judge. One of the benefits of transfer court is that it takes place twice a month with set court dates. This schedule leads to speedy dispositions for less serious cases.

Q: How long do I have to wait for a fraudulent check conviction to be dropped from my record?
A: You can have a fraudulent check conviction removed from your record one year from the date of your conviction, but only if there has been no further criminal activity.

Q: What is a VIS form?
A: A VIS form is an abbreviation that stands for Victim Impact Statement. This form was designed to protect the rights of crime victims in South Carolina's criminal justice system. Victims use this form to show how crime has affected their lives. The form will become part of the court record and it will follow the defendant through the criminal justice system. The judge will use the form to gain a better understanding about the details of the case and the losses, both financial and emotional. The victim can also indicate on the VIS form whether or not they want to be present for all court proceedings pertaining to their case. VIS forms need to be returned to the office in a timely manner.

Q: How will I get restitution?
A: A person that is ordered to pay restitution to a victim is put on probation. During this time, they must comply with a strict payment plan that is set up by their supervising agent with the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services – PPP. PPP collects the restitution payments and distribute the money to victims. If you are a crime victim who is due restitution, make sure PPP has your current contact information. If you fail to receive a payment, you need to contact PPP at (864) 596-2582 in Spartanburg County or (864) 489-4568 in Cherokee County.

Q: How do I get a charge expunged from my criminal record?
A: Expungements (Destruction of Arrest Records) are handled by our Pre-Trial Intervention Office, 180 Library St., Spartanburg. Our office is in the basement of the building that houses Probation, Pardon Services and Parole. Anyone interested in getting a criminal charge expunged needs to stop by the PTI office to complete an application. We will check the applicant’s criminal record and let them know whether or not the charge can be expunged. All dismissals can be expunged. There is no charge for preparation of the order, but the Clerk of Court charges $14.00 to make the certified copies. Certain convictions can be expunged if they meet all criteria. The cost for a conviction is $250.00 to PTI, $35.00 to the Clerk of Court and $25.00 to SLED. We do not know what can be expunged until we can look at the complete criminal record. Once the expungement process is started, it takes 6-8 weeks before the charges are removed from the applicant’s record.