Lexington County CDV Court
If you have been arrested by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department your case will be referred to the Lexington County CDV Court. This court is located in the "old courthouse" at 139 East Main Street, Lexington, on the corner of Main and South Lake Drive.
Criminal Domestic Violence is now one of the most common criminal charges people face in Lexington, South Carolina. We represent men and women in ages ranging from high school students to senior citizens who have been arrested for this serious offense. If you or a loved one has been charged with CDV it is important to know that you do not have to face your charge alone, our focus is to help our clients fight unfair and false allegations or to obtain a deserved second chance.
Introduction to the Court
CDV court is a special term of centralized Magistrate Court that only hears 1st offense criminal domestic violence cases. Many people will be given the same date and time as Court. CDV Court also decides a significant number of bond violation requests submitted by the police or prosecutor. Those found to have violated a no contact restriction in their bond can face up to thirty days in jail for each offense.
Usually the Court date is assigned just a few weeks after the arrest. When your case is called by the judge you will need to be prepared to enter a plea. If you plead "not guilty" you must be prepared to immediately start your trial. If you are convicted your sentence will be immediately imposed. There is a "no drop" policy which will prevent the police or Court from dismissing a charge at the request of the alleged victim.
Defendants who do not hire a lawyer are held to the same standards as a lawyer. You must have filed all necessary pre-trial motions in advance. You will be expected to abide by the South Carolina Rules of Evidence, and the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure. Unrepresented defendants must be prepared to make the same objections that an attorney would in the event that the prosecutor or police attempt to violate a rule. The Court does not assist in the preparation or presenment of your defense or make legal objections to improper evidence submitted by the State.
About the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC
Our office was founded and is managed by criminal defense attorney James Snell. He is the past president of the Lexington County Bar Association, and a member of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has represented clients in both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases from a variety of circumstances.
Our office is located at 123 Harmon Street. We offer no cost initial consultations to those who have been arrested for domestic violence or other criminal charges.
What should you do before your CDV Court date?
It is imperative that everyone who has been arrested for CDV in Lexington consult with an attorney prior to their Court date. If you or a loved one has been charged with domestic violence you may schedule an initial consultation with our office by calling (803) 359-3301. There is no charge for your first meeting. Our goal is to help our clients avoid becoming convicted of CDV.
After we are retained for your case what will we do?
Although every case is different, initially we will take the following steps to protect your rights:
- File a notice of appearance with the Court
- Determine what bond restrictions have been placed on you and seek to have them lifted or modified at your request
- Have your case transferred from CDV Court and assigned to a regular Court
- File motions demanding the Sheriff's Department turn over the evidence against you prior to trial (this includes witness statements, police reports, 911 recordings, photographs, etc.)
- Identify the witnesses against you and schedule any interviews
- Serve the Sheriff's Department with our motions and other Court filings
Once we have had a chance to evaluate your case, we will develop a strategy that can help prevent you from being needlessly convicted of a false, unfair or unsupported domestic violence charge.
Frequently Asked Questions about Lexington CDV Court
Are there public defenders available at my court date to answer questions?
No, there are no public defenders available for you at your initial court date to answer your questions or help defendants. Further the court staff is prohibited from giving you legal advice or assisting you with your defense. Although the Sheriff's Department will be represented by an attorney, they are also prohibited from giving you legal advice or assisting with the presentation of your defense. Everyone who has been arrested for CDV will be screened for a public defender as part of the initial bond setting.
Can a lawyer really help me with my case?
Yes. There are a significant number of things that can be done to help anyone who has been charged with CDV try to maintain their freedom, reputation, family and job. We have found that there is no case that is hopeless. There are numerous specific strategies which we have employed on behalf of our clients. We will discuss what strategies may be appropriate for your case during your initial consultation.
My partner doesn't want to see me prosecuted. Can we ask to have the charge dropped?
A "no drop" policy applies in CDV Court. This is to prevent victims of true domestic violence from being pressured into having charges dropped against their abusers. The same policy though is applied to everyone, even in cases where there is no history of physical abuse or even any allegation of any physical harm.
Can the CDV Court sentence me to jail?
You could be sentenced to serve thirty days at the Lexington County Detention Center to begin immediately, and be escorted out of the building in handcuffs. If you drove yourself your car may also be impounded. The court has the discretion to sentence anyone to jail who either pleads guilty, no contest or is found guilty after a trial. This applies to everyone including both men and women, and those with no prior criminal record. In addition to the possibility of a jail sentence the Court can also sentence those convicted to pay a fine of over $5,000 and/or complete a domestic abuse counseling program.
Who is at my court date?
The deputies who were involved in your arrest, their attorney and prosecutor, representatives of one or more "victims" advocacy groups and the judge. The Court is also open to the general public, so anyone may be present whether or not they have an actual interest in your case.
Should I plead guilty or no contest?
Usually pleading guilty or no contest to CDV is a bad idea. If you plead either guilty or no contest it means that you are willing to accept the penalties that come with a CDV conviction. The only decision the judge will be able to make is whether or not to immediately put you in jail. Neither the judge or the prosecutor can prevent you from having a publically available criminal record, being allowed to possess firearms, pass future employment screenings, or otherwise have the conviction used and held against you.
Can I fight my case at CDV Court?
Yes, you do not have to plead guilty or no contest. You can also plead not-guilty. However trials at CDV Court are conducted without a jury, meaning the judge alone will determine if you are guilty. The judge's decision is meant to be final, so even if you are found guilty you don't automatically get a chance to come back later after you have hired or consulted with a lawyer. You will also have to know how to property challenge the State's evidence as well as prevent your own defense in the same manner as a criminal defense attorney.
Do I have to hire a lawyer, or can I do this myself?
CDV is a serious criminal offense. This is not like a traffic ticket. If you are convicted you will face immediate and permanent consequences. The law in South Carolina makes many instances unlawful which would not otherwise appear criminal or violent. The only way you can ensure that you have a fair opportunity to challenge false or unfair allegations is by knowing the law, and knowing how to implement your rights as a criminal defendant. Unless you have the same knowledge and experience as a criminal defense attorney you will be at a disadvantage to the State.
I went to Court by myself and was treated unfairly. Can you help?
Many people try to go to Court by themselves and then are upset when they realize how quickly they were convicted. If this has happened to you or a loved one it is important that you contact our office as quickly as possible, there are very short time limits on how long you have to file a request with the Court for relief or an appeal. We have helped people before have their cases re-opened or challenged on appeal.
What other Courts in Lexington hear CDV 1st cases?
Every municipality in the County that has Court also hears CDV cases. Each Court's procedures may be a little different than the other, but all should apply the same law and general rules of Court. Towns in Lexington that hold Court include Cayce, West Columbia, Springdale, Pine Ridge, Gaston, Swansea, Batesburg-Leesville, Pelion, Chapin, Irmo, Lexington, and South Congaree. If your case is transferred out of CDV Court after our office's initial filings it will be sent to one of the regional Magistrate Courts. They are located in Cayce, Swansea, Oak Grove, Lexington, Batesburg-Leesville or Irmo. By our count there are 19 separate Courts in Lexington County that have jurisdiction over these cases.