Industry News for Criminal Defense Law in Columbia, South Carolina


Understanding the criminal trial process in Columbia, SC, is crucial for anyone involved in the criminal justice system. Whether you are a defendant, a witness, or just an interested party, knowing what happens at each stage of a trial can help demystify the process. At Thompson and Hiller, our expertise in criminal law makes us uniquely qualified to guide clients through the complexities of criminal trials in South Carolina.

Stages of a Criminal Trial

A criminal trial in Columbia, SC, typically follows a structured process, each stage having its own significance:

  1. Arraignment: This is the first stage of the trial process where the defendant is formally charged and asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
  2. Pre-trial Motions: Before the trial officially begins, lawyers from both sides may file motions to set the boundaries for the trial. These motions can include requests to dismiss charges, suppress evidence, or request a change of venue.
  3. Trial: The trial itself is where the prosecution and defense present their cases to a judge or jury. This stage includes opening statements, witness testimonies, cross-examinations, and closing arguments.
  4. Verdict: After deliberation, the jury (or judge in a bench trial) delivers a verdict – guilty or not guilty.
  5. Sentencing: If the verdict is guilty, the judge will determine the sentence based on the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors.

Each of these stages plays a critical role in ensuring justice is served while upholding the legal rights of the accused.

Role of Defense Attorneys

Defense attorneys play a vital role throughout the criminal trial process. Their responsibilities include:

  • Legal Representation: From arraignment to sentencing, defense attorneys provide legal representation for the accused, ensuring their rights are protected.
  • Case Preparation: This involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing a legal strategy to defend the client.
  • Negotiation: Defense attorneys often negotiate with prosecutors on plea deals or lesser charges, especially if it is in the best interest of their client.

Jury Selection and Trial Proceedings

The jury selection process, known as “voir dire,” is a critical component of the trial. Here, attorneys from both sides question potential jurors to ensure an unbiased jury is selected. Factors like personal backgrounds, beliefs, and potential prejudices are assessed to determine each juror’s suitability.

Once the jury is selected, the trial proceedings commence. This includes:

  • Opening Statements: Both sides present an overview of their case, setting the stage for the evidence and arguments to follow.
  • Presentation of Evidence: The prosecution and defense present their evidence, which can include physical evidence, witness testimony, and expert opinions.
  • Cross-Examinations: Attorneys have the opportunity to question opposing witnesses, challenging their credibility and the validity of their testimony.
  • Closing Arguments: Both sides summarize their case, aiming to persuade the jury in their favor.

Thompson and Hiller focus on meticulous preparation for each stage, ensuring that every piece of evidence and every witness testimony is scrutinized and utilized effectively to build a strong defense.

Verdict and Sentencing

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury deliberates and reaches a verdict. If the verdict is ‘not guilty,’ the defendant is acquitted of the charges. However, a ‘guilty’ verdict leads to the sentencing phase, where the judge determines the appropriate punishment. The sentence can range from fines and probation to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime and other mitigating or aggravating factors.


The criminal trial process in Columbia, SC, is a complex and multifaceted journey through the justice system. Understanding each stage is crucial for anyone facing criminal charges. At Thompson and Hiller, we pride ourselves on guiding our clients through this challenging process with expertise and dedication. Our comprehensive approach ensures that our clients are well-represented and their rights are vigorously defended at every turn.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Columbia, SC, it’s important to seek experienced legal representation as early as possible. Contact Thompson and Hiller for a consultation, where we can discuss your case and outline a strategy that best serves your interests. Remember, in the intricate world of criminal law, having a skilled and knowledgeable defense team can make all the difference.