In all criminal cases in South Carolina, the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This requires sufficient evidence of each “element” of the alleged offense to convince the jurors that they have essentially no choice but to conclude that you committed a crime.
While this is a high burden of proof (the highest-burden in any type of court case), many South Carolina prosecutors are very good at what they do. As a result, when you are facing a criminal charge in North Charleston, you need to do everything possible to protect yourself. In a recent article, we discussed 15 types of defenses that can be used to avoid a conviction in a criminal case. In this article, we will focus on some of the key facts that defendants can use to avoid a guilty verdict in South Carolina.
Using the Facts to Your Advantage During Your Criminal Case
Importantly, since the prosecution has the burden of proof, as a defendant you do not actually need to prove any facts in order to avoid a conviction. If the prosecution rests without presenting sufficient evidence of guilt, then you can move for a directed verdict without presenting any evidence in your favor. But, in most cases, it will be helpful to use certain facts to your advantage. This includes facts that prove your innocence as well as facts that simply expose flaws in the government’s case.
1. When did the police arrive?
The longer it took the police to arrive at the scene of the alleged crime or come to your home or place of business to make an arrest, the more time that passed in which events could have transpired, stories could have changed, and exculpatory evidence could have disappeared. If you were not caught in the act (and there is no other direct evidence of your guilt), this alone is a significant fact that merits consideration in your case.
2. Where were you arrested?
Were you arrested at the scene of the alleged crime? Or, were you arrested hours (or days) later somewhere else? If you were arrested at the scene, did the arresting officer collect incriminating evidence? If not, why not? If so, do you have grounds to argue that the evidence should be suppressed from your trial? If you were arrested somewhere else later, why did it take so long for the police to make the arrest? In general, the more uncertainty there is regarding the justification for your arrest, the more difficult it will be for the prosecution to prove its case at trial.
3. What did the arresting officer say and do?
Did the arresting officer tell you why he or she stopped you? Did the officer read your Miranda rights when you were taken into custody? Did the officer use unnecessary force? You have fundamental constitutional rights as a suspect and as a defendant; and, if the police violated your rights, any evidence obtained as a result of the violation may be inadmissible in court.
4. Were you presented with a warrant?
While a warrant is not required under all circumstances, if you were arrested or the police searched your vehicle, home, or business without a warrant, this is an important fact that you should discuss with your defense attorney. If you were subjected to an unconstitutional search or seizure, this could be grounds to have evidence excluded from your trial as well.
5. Were there any witnesses to the alleged crime?
If no one witnessed the crime and it was not caught on video, then the prosecution may be forced to build a circumstantial case. Proving guilt with circumstantial evidence presents a much greater challenge for the prosecution. Conversely, if someone did witness the crime and can testify that you were not the perpetrator, this can be powerful evidence in your favor.
6. Are the witnesses credible?
Even if the prosecution has witnesses who are prepared to testify in court, if these witnesses are not credible, then their testimony should not carry much (if any) weight. Do they have an ulterior motive for accusing you? Is it not entirely clear that they actually witnessed the crime? Have they been caught in a lie in the past? These are all important facts for the jury to know.
7. If there is a victim, is he or she credible?
Likewise, if there is a victim, his or her credibility is a key factor as well. If there is evidence to suggest that you have been falsely accused, this is evidence that needs to be put in front of the jury.
8. How long did the victim wait to call the police?
If the victim waited hours or days to contact the police, this can raise critical questions as well. If the person really was victimized, why did he or she wait so long to come forward? In cases involving alleged property crimes, domestic violence, and other violent crimes, this type of delay can often work in the defendant’s favor.
9. Did you intend to commit a crime?
While ignorance of the law generally is not a defense, if you thought you were borrowing something instead of stealing it, if you acted under duress, or if you felt you had no choice but to engage in an illegal act (such as speeding to get a family member to the hospital), your mental state could be a key fact in your case.
10. Is there reliable proof of the value of the property, amount of drugs, or your blood alcohol concentration (BAC)?
Facts such as the value of property stolen, the number of drugs possessed, or your BAC following a traffic stop can impact the severity of the charges against you. For example, if you were charged with grand larceny but it is not clear that you stole more than $2,000 worth of goods, then you should not be found guilty of the crime alleged.
Schedule a Free Criminal Defense Consultation in North Charleston, SC
In order to use these types of facts to your advantage, you will need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. To discuss your case with North Charleston, SC defense lawyer Rad Deaton, call 843-225-5723 or request a free initial consultation online now.