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Nearly everyone who contacts me about a recent CDV arrest wants the same thing - to have their case either dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the Court. Previously I have reviewed the "no drop" policy that prevents a prosecutor from just dropping a CDV case. In this article I am going to review the limitations placed on Magistrate, Municipal and CDV Courts to have the judge dismiss a CDV case prior to trial.
The facts I am going to be dismissing come from straight from the South Carolina Supreme Court in the case of State vs. Ramsey, 381 S.C. 375, 673 S.E.2d 428 (S.C. 2009).
In Ramsey the defendant was arrested in 2006 for
1st Degree Burglary and
Criminal Domestic Violence. As customary for felony charges the defendant received a preliminary hearing for the burglary charge. A
preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing before a Magistrate to determine if it is more likely than not that the defendant is guilty of the offense.
At the preliminary hearing the Magistrate dismissed the burglary charge finding there was not enough evidence to allow the State to go forward.The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the CDV case prior to trial. The Magistrate held a preliminary hearing and after finding there was not enough evidence to allow the case to go forward dismissed it.
After the dismissal the prosecutors appealed - arguing that the Magistrate did not have the authority to dismiss a CDV case short of a trial. It is important to know that the State has the same ability to Appeal a CDV Dismissal (short of trial) as a Defendant does to appeal a CDV conviction (after a trial\guilty plea). Double jeopardy does not apply in these circumstances.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Magistrate in dismissing the case. The Court held that Magistrate Courts do not have the authority to dismiss CDV cases short of trial - and that if there wasn't enough evidence to convict the defendant the case should just have been tried on its merits. Nothing the Supreme Court said prevents Courts from finding someone not-guilty after a trial. The Court then re-opened the defendant's case and remanded it back for trial - three years after it was originally dismissed by the Court.
The holding in Ramsey is important for anyone who has been arrested for domestic violence in South Carolina. There are only a limited number of options presented to anyone arrested for CDV in South Carolina - and having the judge just dismiss the case short of trial isn't one of them.
Lexington Criminal Defense Attorney James Snell represents clients in challenging their CDV arrests. If you have been
charged with domestic violence you are invited to contact the
Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, for a confidential and no-cost initial case assessment. Appointments are held in our office located at 316 South Lake Drive in downtown Lexington. To schedule your appointment call us at