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Trial Guidelines & Procedures

Trial Guidelines

You have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense occurring in the State of South Carolina. The United States Constitution as well as the South Carolina Constitution affords you certain rights. You have the right to plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to this charge. You have the right to request a trial by jury in which six people would decide guilt or innocence. If you wish to be represented by an attorney you have the right to retain one. At this level of court, an attorney will not be appointed to you unless you are indigent (unable to afford an attorney) and facing jail time.

If you are a Clemson student, you may be eligible for a 30-minute consultation with a lawyer. 

For more information contact the Student Government office at 864-656-2195 or go to their website at http://mycusg.com/

Further explanations of the type of pleas you may enter are as follows:

Victim's Rights

As the victim of a crime, you are guaranteed certain rights pursuant to section 16-3-1535 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. These rights include:

  1. The right to be present and participate in all hearings

  2. The right to be represented by counsel.

  3. The right to pursue civil remedies in magistrate court.

  4. The right to submit an oral or written impact statement, or both, for consideration by the judge at the disposition hearing or trial. 

Trial Procedures

The burden of proof rests firmly on the State of South Carolina. The defendant does not have to "prove" his or her innocence. The state must prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a person to be convicted of a crime. Reasonable doubt is the type of doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate to act. Or, the type of doubt that leaves a person reasonably convinced of the guilt of the party involved.

It is because the burden of proof rests upon the state that the state presents its' case in chief first. If the state does not convince the court that enough evidence is present to convict the defendant, then the judge by his or her own motion or a motion made by the defendant may issue a directed verdict of "not guilty". Once the state has presented its case and rested, then the defendant may or may not present a case. Both the defendant and the state have an opportunity to cross-exam any witnesses presented.

A defendant does not have to say or do anything, you are presumed innocent and are not required to incriminate yourself by testifying. However, if you wish to testify, then you will be sworn in exactly as the state was and you will open yourself up to cross-examination by the state. If you have any witnesses you wish to call then this is the time frame in which to do so. Again, the witnesses will also be subject to cross-examination.

Types of physical evidence which can be entered as evidence are pictures, mechanical bills, receipts, and records from the highway department. If you have any physical evidence that you would like to have admitted then you must lay a proper foundation to have these items admitted. For instance, a picture, if you took the picture, then you would testify that you took the picture, when it was taken, where it was taken, and if the judge determines that a proper foundation has been laid, he/she will allow that picture to be admitted. If you wish to enter copies from a business/department then the records must be certified true copies, for instance driving records would have to be certified as "true" copies from the Department of Public Safety in order for you to lay the proper foundation for admittance into evidence. If you can not lay the proper foundation, then the evidence will not be admitted.

If you need a witness in court but that person(s) is not willing to appear, you may request the Court Clerk to issue a subpoena for that witness. A municipal court has limited jurisdiction and can not compel people from outside its' own jurisdiction.

While a lot of information is being given to you, this court does recognize that you are not an attorney and we will guide you through the trial process. The most important thing for you to remember is that this is a court of law, irregardless of the fact that we are located on a college campus, and you and the state must abide by the same rules as you would in any other court in the State of South Carolina. You will have your day in court and a fair and impartial judge will make a decision based on the law and evidence presented. You may or may not be happy with the decision, but you can believe that your trial was conducted in the manner prescribed by law. If you have any questions prior to your trial date, please contact the court office. You will not be allowed to speak to the judge but one of the Court Clerks will be happy to answer your questions.