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Frequently Asked Questions
 
General Information FAQs
Common Pleas FAQs
General Sessions FAQs
Family Court FAQs
Guest Internet Access Instructions
 
I. General Information
  Can you give me legal advice?
Can you recommend an attorney or law firm?
Can I act as my own attorney when filing a case?
How can I find a lawyer?
How can I check on the status of my case? Can I review case files?
How can I find out when my case is coming up for trial (or another scheduled event such as a motion hearing?)
Where do I go to pay my traffic ticket?
I received a summons for jury duty. How can I get more information?
Is this where I come to get a restraining order?
Where do I go to make my child support payments?
May I pay my child support with a personal check or credit card?
Where do I go to get a marriage license?
Can I register to vote at your office?
Does your office provide information pertaining to tax liens, land transactions, or partnerships?
Where/How do I report Domestic Abuse?
 
II. Common Pleas
  What is the cost for filing a civil case?
Do I file Small Claims cases in your office?
When is a case a matter for "Small Claims", and when is it "Common Pleas"?
What is the Master-in-Equity Court? Can I have my case heard there? Is it faster?
Do you provide case and judgment information to companies such as credit bureaus?
Are bankruptcy proceedings handled in the Court of Common Pleas?
What if I want to appeal the outcome of a Common Pleas case?
Can you tell me how to appeal a case from another (lower) court?
III. General Sessions
  How do I file a criminal case?
What is an "expungement"?
How do I know if I'm eligible for an expungement?
How do I get my criminal record expunged?
Does the Clerk of Court have a complete schedule of all Criminal cases coming up for trial?
What if I don't like the outcome of my General Sessions case; what if I want to appeal it?
What types of Bail in lieu of bonds are accepted at the Clerk of Courts Office?
If I deposit money in lieu of a bond with the Clerk of Court, do I get that money refunded?
How can I get copies of a Court Transcript?
IV. Family Court
  Where do I go to make child support payments?
May I pay my child support with a personal check or credit card?

 


General Information

Q: Can you give me legal advice?

No; the Clerk of Court's office staff is not permitted to give legal advice. Persons seeking advice or acting as their own attorneys should consult the most recent edition of South Carolina Rules of Court and follow the Rules of Civil Procedure, or contact the Neighborhood Legal Assistance Program at (843) 722-0107.

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Q: Can you recommend an attorney or law firm?

No; the Clerk of Court's office staff is prohibited from referring you to an attorney.

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Q: Can I act as my own attorney when filing a case?

Yes; You have the right to act as your own attorney, but our office cannot give you any advice as to the law or procedures.

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Q: How can I find a lawyer?

For information on attorney referrals you may contact the S.C. Lawyers Referral Service at (800) 868-2284. Defendants in criminal proceedings have a right to a lawyer, and are entitled to have counsel appointed at government expense if they are financially unable to obtain adequate representation by private counsel. For more information, contact the Charleston County Public Defender's Office at (843) 958-1850. There is no right to free legal assistance in civil proceedings. Some litigants proceed pro se; that is, they represent themselves before the court.

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Q: How can I check on the status of my case? Can I review case files?

All documents filed with the court are public records and are available through the clerk's office. Some documents are sealed by special court order, and some documents are confidential by operation of law, such as grand jury materials and criminal files relating to juveniles.

As the keeper of court records, the clerk's office responds to most inquiries on the status of a case once given the specific case number or a party name. Inquiries for information and requests to examine dockets, case files, exhibits, and other records are made at the clerk's office in the County Judicial Center located at 100 Broad Street room 106. Family Court records are retained in the clerk's office in the County Judicial Center located at 100 Broad Street room 143. Inquiries often are made by phone. A fee of $ .25 a page also is assessed for providing copies of court documents. Older case documents may only be available on microfilm. The Clerk of Court also provides public access terminals which allow for the search and retrieval of case-related information.

This same information is available through our Interactive Search for Public Access Cases at this web site. Automated access to case-related information is available free of charge, 24 hours a day.

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Q: How can I find out when my case is coming up for trial (or another scheduled event such as a motion hearing?)

You can check on the events for which your case has been scheduled by linking to our Interactive Search for Public Access Cases and inquiring on your case number (if known) or by your name. Once your case has been located, the system will allow you to access the Event Screen for a complete list of all scheduled events for your case. You can also check the Civil Jury Trial and Civil Non-Jury Trial Rosters, available at this WEB site. Finally, you can call the Docket Information line at (843) 958-5027.

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Q: Where do I go to pay my traffic ticket?

Only traffic tickets issued by the Sheriff's Office are handled by Magistrate's Court (also called Summary Courts) in Charleston County. There are 18 magistrates' courts in Charleston County. All but four of these courts handle traffic citations. Instructions telling you which court you must appear in are on the copy of the ticket you received. For more information you may link to the Magistrates' Court Page at this site.

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Q: I received a summons for jury duty. How can I get more information?

For additional information regarding jury service, Click here to visit our Jury Service Information page.

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Q: Is this where I come to get a restraining order?

Restraining Orders are generally obtained through a Magistrate's Court. You should contact the Magistrate for the area in which the offender lives. For a complete list of Magistrate's Courts and their locations, click here to link to the directory of Magistrate's Courts or click here for further information on Magistrates' restraining orders.

If you are seeking a restraining order because of an incidence of domestic abuse, you should contact Family Court. Remember, if you are in immediate distress or danger, always dial 911.

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Q: Where do I go to make my child support payments?

Child Support payments are accepted at Family Court, located at 100 Broad Street, Suite 143,Charleston, South Carolina 29401-2265. Payments may also be mailed in to the Family Court address. Please remember that a payment stub must accompany all payments. Write your case number on your certified check or money order. Do not mail cash. No personal checks accepted.

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Q: May I pay my child support with a personal check or credit card?

The only accepted types of payment are cash, money order, certified checks, or wage garnishments. Do not mail cash

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Q: Where do I go to get a marriage license?

Marriage licenses are not issued by the Clerk of Court. You may obtain a marriage license or receive information pertaining to marriage licenses by contacting the Marriage License Division of the Charleston County Probate Court, located at the County Judicial Center at 100 Broad Street, Room 469 or call (843) 958-5183.

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Q: Can I register to vote at your office?

No. Voter registration in Charleston County is handled by the Board of Voter Registration.

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Q: Does your office provide information pertaining to tax liens, land transactions, or partnerships?

The Clerk of Court in Charleston County does not file or maintain any of these records. For information regarding any of these items, you should contact the RMC (Registrar of Mesne Conveyance) Office .

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Q: Where/How do I report Domestic Abuse?

No, cases involving Domestic Abuse are handled by Family Court in Charleston County. If you are in immediate distress or danger you should always dial 911. Click here for further information on
Domestic Abuse and restraining orders.

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Common Pleas

Q: What is the cost for filing a civil case?

Parties instituting a civil action in a circuit court are required to pay the filing fee at the time the case is filed. As of July 1, 2004, the fee is $150.00 for most civil actions; a fee of $10.00 is assessed for the filing of a Lis Pendens.

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Q: Do I file Small Claims cases in your office?

Small Claims cases are filed with one of the two Small Claims Courts in Charleston County.

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Q: When is a case a matter for "Small Claims", and when is it "Common Pleas"?

Generally speaking, when the amount or value of property in dispute is less than $7,500 the matter is filed and heard in Small Claims Court. When the amount or value of property is more than $7,500 the matter is filed and heard in the Court of Common Pleas.

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Q: What is the Master-in-Equity Court? Can I have my case heard there? Is it faster?

The Master-in-Equity Court provides a relatively quick and inexpensive means of litigation resolution for Civil, non-jury matters. Parties may not initiate action in the Master's Court, however. Only cases assigned by the Court of Common Pleas through an Order of Reference may be heard by the Master-in-Equity. The Master's Court hears most foreclosure cases, and a sizable number of other civil, non-jury cases such as land partitions, judicial sales, and actions to collect on judgments. Any case which could otherwise be heard in the Court of Common Pleas without a jury can be referred to the Master, and anyone filing a civil case who waives the right to a jury trial can ask to have their case referred to Master-in-Equity Court.

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Q: Do you provide case and judgment information to companies such as credit bureaus?

The Clerk of Court does not look up and give out case information to credit bureaus and other companies. While this information is available to the public, companies with an interest in obtaining such information must perform the research themselves. All the information is available via public access computer terminals in our offices, or through Public Access Case Inquiry features available at this WEB site.

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Q: Are bankruptcy proceedings handled in the Court of Common Pleas?

Bankruptcy proceedings are an action of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina. For more information you should contact the US District Court Clerk's office at (843) 579-1401.

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Q: What if I want to appeal the outcome of a Common Pleas case?

Cases tried or otherwise disposed in the Court of Common Pleas are appealed to the Court of Appeals (http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/appeals/index.cfm) or the Supreme Court of South Carolina (http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/supreme/index.cfm)

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Q: Can you tell me how to appeal a case from another (lower) court?

The Court of Common Pleas handles appeals from Small Claims and other Magistrates' Courts, and some administrative agencies. It will be necessary for you to pay a filing fee at the time you file the appeal, if you are appealing a Civil case. Appeals on Civil cases are automatically scheduled as Non-Jury matters.

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General Sessions

Q: How do I file a criminal case?

If you feel like you are the victim of a crime, you should contact the nearest police department in your area.

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Q: What is an "expungement"?

An expungement of record is a process by which the records of a criminal conviction are destroyed or sealed. This includes records in files, on computer, or in any other depositories. Following an expungement, it is as if the criminal case never existed.

When a case is expunged in Charleston County, the court's computer records are modified so that all references to the defendant's name are removed from the record. Typically, an expunged case record will contain a reference such as "June 1998 Expungement" in place of the name of the defendant, and will contain no references to the defendant's name, address, or any other personal information such as driver's license number, age, etc. The case number is left on the system in order to provide an accounting of all case numbers, and so that caseload statistics can be properly gathered. (For example, the court would still need to know how many criminal cases of a certain nature were disposed in a given year, so the case number is left on the computer database. But because the case is expunged, it will not be possible to tell who the defendant was in the case.)

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Q: How do I know if I'm eligible for an expungement?

You may be eligible to have a criminal case record expunged IF:
  • You have never had a charge expunged before, AND
  • The charges against you were dismissed, "nolle prossed", or you were found "not guilty", OR
  • The charges were dismissed by the Solicitor because the defendant successfully completed a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, OR
  • You were convicted of a Fraudulent Check Law violation, and no criminal activity has taken place for one year following the date of the conviction, OR
  • You were convicted of a first offense simple possession of marijuana, received a conditional discharge, and has successfully complied with the terms of that sentence, OR
  • You were convicted of a first offense in a Magistrates or Municipal Court and no other criminal activity has taken place within three years following the date of conviction.

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Q: How do I get my criminal record expunged?

Any and all charges with "nolle prossed", dismissed or not guilty can be expunged. You may ask for a criminal charge to be expunged from your record under a variety of conditions, but you are only entitled to one expungement with a disposition of guilty that qualifies during your lifetime. In order to obtain an expungement you must first meet the eligibility requirements listed above, and you must obtain and complete a form known as an Expungement Order. You will also need to obtain certain signatures on the Expungement Order.
  • If the case was heard in Circuit Court, obtain the signature of a Circuit Court Judge.
  • If the you went through a Pre-Trial Intervention program, obtain the signature of the Pre-Trial Intervention Director.
  • Obtain a signature from an authorized person in the Solicitor's Office.
Once the form contains all required signatures, you must file the Expungement Order with the Clerk of Court. In order for the expungement to be processed, you must pay a $35 filing fee. This fee may be waived if the criminal charges against you were "dismissed", or "nolle prossed", or if you were found "not guilty". Finally, you must distribute certified copies of the order to appropriate agencies and departments in which the charge was recorded: arresting agency, SC Department of Public Safety, Office of the Solicitor, and the Circuit or Magistrate's Court including Bond Hearing and SLED. Failure on you or your attorney to distribute these copies to all entities involved in your case will result in your name remaining on case records in that agency.

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Does the Clerk of Court have a complete schedule of all Criminal cases coming up for trial?

No; the function of scheduling Criminal cases for trial is a function of the
Solicitor's Office.

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Q: What if I don't like the outcome of my General Sessions case; what if I want to appeal it?

Cases tried or otherwise disposed in the Court of General Sessions in Charleston County are appealed to the South Carolina State Supreme Court. Appeals are filed with the Clerk of the State Supreme Court.

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Q: What types of Bail in lieu of bonds are accepted at the Clerk of Courts Office?

Once the bond amount and conditions are set by the Judge, the family, attorney or a bonding company can proceed to deposit the individual's bail bond with the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court will provide a release letter to whom is bailing the individual from custody and the release letter is taken to the Detention Center to process the individual's release.
1.    Surety Bond:
a.  You can make a cash deposit of the amount set in lieu of a bond or a Cashiers Check.
b.  A Bonding Company can also post the bail bond for you.
c.  An individual can pledge Property (Land or a House, Mobile homes are not accepted )to the Clerk of Court as collateral for the bond. Out of State properties are not accepted. You can find a Property Bond Packet and Requirements under the Forms Section of our web site.
2.   Personal Recognizance Bond:
A  release letter with a PR Bond Form attached is provided to the Attorney or a family member of the individual in custody. This release letter is taken to the Detention Center to process the individual's release. The defendant must sign the PR Bond form acknowledging the conditions for his/her release.
3.   Cash Percentage in Lieu of Bonds:
The amount of a bond can be set to certain amount and/or half of the amount to a percentage of the bond set. If more than one person is posting the amount, both parties must be present at the Clerk of Courts office to be able to process the bond and receive a release letter.
4. Property Bond:
Your house and land can be use as collateral for a bail bond. The Clerk of Court has provided a packet in the Forms Section on this web site with the requirements needed to use your house or land as collateral. This packet includes a list of requirements and a notice of pledge of Real Estate form.

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Q: If I deposit money in lieu of a bond with the Clerk of Court, do I get that money refunded?

Once the case is ended, the individual is released without further liability and the deposit made is not assigned or was made by anyone other then the defendant, that person is entitled to a full refund.

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Q: How can I get copies of a Court Transcript?

The Clerk of Court does not keep records of Court Transcripts, these are kept by the Court Reporters who transcribed the hearing. You can request copies of a court transcript in writing from the court reporter. You will find the Court Reporter's name on the web site under the Party File Inquiry screen. Once you have the Court Reporter's name you can link to
www.judicial.state.sc.us under Terms of Court to locate Court Reporter's information.

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Family Court

Q: Where do I go to make my child support payments?

Child Support payments are accepted at Family Court, located at 100 Broad Street, Suite 143, Charleston, South Carolina 29401-2265, Phone: (843) 958-4400 Fax: (843) 958-4434.

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Q: May I pay my child support with a personal check or credit card?

The only accepted types of payment are cash, money order, certified checks, or wage garnishments.

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