Crime to Courtroom

What happens after a person gets arrested in Beaufort County?

Community members often ask our deputy sheriffs about the process that follows the arrests we make and the outcomes of charges we file.

This page gives an overview of the criminal justice system and offers tools to track offenders, cases and outcomes of criminal cases in Beaufort County.

Arrests in Beaufort County

In the interest of making information more accessible to the public, we have created spreadsheets that show the charges filed in Beaufort County General Sessions Court thus far in 2021 and the judicial outcomes of cases disposed from 2017 through 2021. 

These easy-to-follow spreadsheets will be updated as charges are filed and as dispositions are received from the Beaufort County Clerk of Court.

The spreadsheets not only include cases made

 by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies, but those from municipalities within Beaufort County and state law enforcement agencies.

For information about other cases or cases filed in Municipal or Magistrate Court, go to South Carolina’s Public Index Database, select the county you wish to search and follow instructions from there.

Outcomes: Case status and sentencing

After a law enforcement officer files charges against an individual, the case then moves to the prosecution phase of the criminal justice process. Our disposition spreadsheets offer a snapshot of criminal activity in Beaufort County and can be searched, sorted and filtered according to your informational needs. 

A Primer on Criminal Justice

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement

It is law enforcement’s responsibility to investigate criminal offenses and to present facts and circumstances surrounding its investigation to neutral and detached magistrates, municipal and higher court judges for the determinations of probable cause.

Before a person can be arrested, the threshold of probable cause must be met.

Probable cause is defined as facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime has been committed and that the subject to be arrested committed the crime.

Probable cause is a protection against unlawful search and seizure provided by the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, which was made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The threshold of probable cause for an arrest is beyond mere suspicion, but below reasonable doubt, which is the standard of proof required for conviction in a court of law.

Evidence: physical and/or testimonial, must exist to support probable cause in order for a law enforcement officer to obtain warrant and make an arrest.

An arrest warrant is a document that authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest a person.

In order to obtain a warrant for someone’s arrest in South Carolina, law enforcement officers  must outline the existence of probable cause and attest to the facts of the case in front of a magistrate or municipal judge.

A law enforcement officer may arrest a person without having a warrant when the violation of law occurs in their presence.

Generally speaking, when an arrest is made in Beaufort County, a person is taken into custody and brought to the Beaufort County Detention Center, where he or she is booked and incarcerated.

To view daily arrests, recent releases and the current inmate population, go to Beaufort County Detention Center’s Inmate Inquiry System.

For past arrests, you can search case records using the South Carolina Public Index

To search, click “Beaufort County” on the map. After accepting the terms and conditions of using the Beaufort County 14th Circuit Public Index, you can search by name, date or the type of crime committed.

To search by name, fill out the appropriate name fields and click “Search.”

To search by date, select “Arrested” under “Date Type,” fill out the desired beginning and end dates and click “Search.”

To search by crime, select “Arrested” under “Date Type,” fill out the four-digit CDR code that corresponds to the crime you’re searching and click “Search.”

Note: For CDR codes that are two digits, enter two zeros before the number. For CDR codes that are three digits, enter one zero in front of the number.

Courts

Courts

Following an arrest, the person accused of committing a crime — now referred to as a “defendant” — will be brought before a magistrate, municipal judge or General Sessions judge for a bond hearing. This is the first step in the judicial process.

PROSECUTION


DEFENSE


JUDGES

  • Grand Jury
  • Circuit judges
  • Magistrates
  • Municipal judges


ADMINISTRATION

  • Clerk of Court
  • Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s General Sessions Liaison
  • Beaufort County Detention Center Corrections Officers

Defendants charged with criminal offenses carrying penalties of more than 30 days in jail are directed to General Session Court; those charged with offenses carrying 30 days or less are directed to the magistrate or municipal courts.

General Sessions offenses are either misdemeanors, which are generally less serious offenses such as minor property crimes and thefts, or felonies, which include murder, rape, robbery, offenses involving firearms, burglaries and other most serious crimes.

During the bond hearing, a judge will weigh whether the subject is a danger to the community or a flight risk, before setting a bond. The subject is then either released on bond or remains incarcerated.

At the bond hearing the defendant is advised of his right to be represented by counsel and of his or her right to a preliminary hearing, also called a probable cause hearing.

At a preliminary hearing, the state, either represented by the arresting law enforcement officer — if the criminal charges are to be heard in a lower court (magistrate or municipal court) — or a prosecuting attorney from the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office — if the criminal charges are to be heard in the higher court (the Court of General Sessions) — must present the probable cause that a crime was committed and the defendant committed the crime.

The defendant and his or her attorney have the opportunity to cross examine the arresting officer to challenge the state’s probable cause. At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing, a judge will rule that probable cause exists to move forward with the state’s prosecution or dismiss the charges against the defendant based on lack of probable cause.

 

An indictment is the formal accusation made against the defendant. 

Indictments are decided on issued by the Grand Jury.

In South Carolina, each Grand Jury consists of 18 jurors who serve for one year.

Beaufort County’s Grand Jury meets monthly to consider matters presented by the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Twelve of the 18 jurors must agree on a matter before it can be sent to court.

All General Sessions charges require indictment by the Grand Jury for prosecution except in certain circumstances.

If the Grand Jury issues an indictment — referred to as “returns a true bill” on the indictment” — the case moves forward and will be prosecuted in the General Sessions court.

If the Grand Jury returns a no bill on the indictment, the case is dismissed.

Once a case is true billed by the Grand Jury, the case is forwarded to the General Sessions court for adjudication.

Prosecution of any criminal charges set for the Court of General Sessions fall under the jurisdiction of the solicitor’s office or, under certain circumstances, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

In the Court of General Sessions, the solicitor’s office will negotiate a plea with the defendant and his or her defense attorney; set the case for trial before a jury; dismiss or nolle prossed the charge or charges against the defendant.

Ultimately, convictions result from negotiated pleas or guilty verdicts returned by juries at trials. Non-convictions result from dismissals, nolle prossed and not guilty verdicts returned by juries at trials.

For convictions in the Court of General Sessions, the penalties for violating South Carolina criminal statutes vary greatly. Negotiated penalties on plea agreements between the solicitor’s office and the defendant’s attorneys must be accepted by the judge.

For cases in which a jury finds the defendant guilty of the charge or charges, the judge determines the sentence.

Penalties associated with specific South Carolina criminal statutes can be found here.

Nolle prossed comes from Nolle prosequi, a Latin phrase meaning “will no longer prosecute.”

If a case is nolle prossed, it will be necessary to file new charges should the solicitor’s office decide to prosecute the defendant at a later date.

In State v Mackey, the South Carolina Supreme Court adopted “a specific, bright-line rule that (1) establishes that a nolle prosequi upon charges extinguishes the States prosecution upon those charges; (2) treats charges nol prossed as if they never existed; and (3) requires a court to dismiss charges when a solicitor has nol prossed the charges and failed to re-indict a criminal defendant upon those charges.”

Corrections

Corrections

When a defendant is convicted and sentenced, they enter the corrections phase of the criminal justice system for restitution and rehabilitation.

The Beaufort County Detention Center houses those awaiting trial and those who have been sentenced for minor crimes.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections houses those who have been convicted of serious crimes.

For cases that concluded in 2021, you can use Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s spreadsheet on dispositions.

Click here and scroll to the right to see the sentencing field.

For all other cases, click here and click on Beaufort County to go to the Beaufort County 14th Circuit Public Index. 

You can search this database by name, date or crime to find out what sentence was handed out.

To search, click “Beaufort County” on the map. After accepting the terms and conditions of using the Beaufort County 14th Circuit Public Index, you can search by name, date or the type of crime committed.

To search by name, fill out the appropriate name fields and click “Search.” 

To search by date, select “Arrested” under “Date Type,” fill out the desired beginning and end dates and click “Search.”

To search by crime, select “Arrested” under “Date Type,” fill out the four-digit CDR code that corresponds to the crime you’re searching and click “Search.”

Note: For CDR codes that are two digits, enter two zeros before the number. For CDR codes that are three digits, enter one zero in front of the number.

After you have found the case you are looking for, click on the case number. On the next screen you will see a tab labeled “Sentencing.” Click on this tab to see the sentence.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections Inmate Search allows users to search for inmates by name. 

For Beaufort County Detention Center, click here.

For the South Carolina Department of Corrections, click here.