I did it. They've got me on videotape, and I just want to get probation... Hold on, what crimes are eligible for probation in SC?
And, do I really want to be on probation?
Although probation is a legitimate goal for some of our clients who are charged with crimes in SC, there are many questions you will need to answer with your attorney's help before you make that decision.
- What crimes are eligible for probation in SC?
- Is my prosecutor willing to offer probation in my case?
- Has my criminal defense lawyer seen all the evidence that the prosecutor will use against me?
- Has my defense lawyer done an independent investigation including interviewing my witnesses?
- Is it possible to get my case dismissed, get into a pretrial diversion program, or win my case at trial?
- If I'm put on probation, can I finish probation or am I likely to get revoked and sent to prison?
Once I have discussed all these questions and more with my defense attorney, then we can decide whether we will accept an offer of probation, negotiate for a different outcome, or take my case to trial...
Come on Vacation, Go Home on Probation
If you didn't know, the unofficial Myrtle Beach motto is "Come on Vacation, Go Home on Probation."
And, it's true - many people who are charged with crimes in Horry County are visiting Myrtle Beach on vacation. Many of those people will eventually end up with a probationary sentence that is transferred to their home state.
Not all crimes are eligible for probation in SC, however. And, not all probationary sentences can be transferred to your home state...
What Crimes are Eligible for Probation in SC?
Not all crimes in SC are eligible for probation.
In SC, probation is a possible sentence for mid-range crimes - the smallest offenses and the most serious offenses are not eligible for probation.
Misdemeanors in the magistrate or municipal courts are not eligible for probation, including "minor" offenses like:
- Driving under the influence first offense;
- Driving under suspension;
- Assault and battery third degree; or
- Domestic violence first offense.
Misdemeanors in General Sessions court do qualify for probation, as do lower to mid-level felonies. The most serious felonies in General Sessions court, however, will say in the statute that probation may not be granted. This includes offenses like:
- Armed robbery;
- CSC first degree; and
These offenses also tend to be no-parole, 85% crimes.
When Can I Transfer Probation to Another State?
If you live in another state and are placed on probation in SC, you can usually transfer your probation to your home state, although the local probation office may require you to stay put until the transfer is done.
The SC probation department will not transfer probation for misdemeanor offenses, however.
Although you can be given a probationary sentence for a misdemeanor in General Sessions court, you will have to complete the probation in SC. If you live in another state, that's not an option.
At that point, if possible, your attorney will have to negotiate:
- A probationary sentence for a felony offense instead of a misdemeanor;
- A fine; or
- A jail term that does not include probation.
When You Should Not Accept an Offer of Probation
In some cases, probation seems like the easy answer.
The evidence is damning. Your attorney has investigated your case, reviewed the state's evidence with you, prepared for a possible trial, and a conviction appears likely. You are facing a possible 30 years in prison following a trial, but your attorney has negotiated a reduced charge and a probationary sentence... probably not a hard choice to make.
In other cases, a probationary sentence is not possible, or it may not be advisable:
- When your charges are not eligible for probation;
- When the prosecutor refuses to offer probation and the court is not likely to grant it;
- When a probationary sentence will also result in sex offender registry or lifetime GPS monitoring;
- When your defense lawyer is likely to get your case dismissed;
- When you are likely to win your case at trial;
- If you are not likely to comply with the conditions of probation; or
- If you are not guilty.
What are the Downsides of Probation?
For some people, the conditions of probation are difficult to comply with.
Probation may not be the right answer if you are likely to:
- Fail drug tests;
- Not keep a full-time job or stay enrolled in school;
- Not show up for your appointments with your probation officer; or
- Get rearrested while on probation.
If your probation is revoked due to violations, what seemed like a great plea offer can easily become a prison sentence...
What are the Benefits of Probation?
On the other hand, if you are clean and sober, work full time or are enrolled in school full time, and are confident that you can comply with the conditions of probation, it may be the best possible outcome that keeps you out of jail and allows you to continue working, supporting your family, and living free.
In some cases, like a plea under the Youthful Offender Act, you may be eligible for expungement at some point in the future.
In other cases, if you stay out of trouble for years after your sentence is completed, you may be eligible for a pardon in the future - a process that restores your civil rights including your right to own a firearm and to hold occupational licenses.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Myrtle Beach or the Horry County, SC area, your SC criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates will investigate your case, get all evidence the prosecutor intends to use against you, and help you to decide whether trial, probation, or another result is the best possible outcome in your case.