I've seen the terms "Summary Court" and "Magistrates' Courts". What's the difference?
These terms are used interchangeably to refer to courts which are presided over by a Magistrate. The administrative support staff for the Magistrates' Courts is always referred to as "Summary Courts Administration".
What kinds of civil cases are heard in Magistrates' Courts?
Magistrates hear several types of civil cases. The most familiar is probably the Small Claims case. Small Claims cases are disputes involving $7,500.00 or less (in money or value of property). Magistrates' Courts also handle Evictions, Pre-Distress Warrants, Claim and Delivery, Landlord/Tenant disputes, Public Sales on Abandoned Property, and issues restraining orders.
Can I get a jury trial in Magistrates' Courts?
Yes, you are legally entitled to a jury trial IF YOU REQUEST ONE IN WRITING. If you wish to make such a request, you should speak to the court clerk or the Arraignment Judge at the Magistrates' Court where your case is being heard. The judge will arrange for a trial date, and a six-member jury will be selected for this purpose.
How do I file a criminal case?
Individuals do not file criminal charges. A criminal proceeding is initiated by the government, usually through the Pickens County Solicitor’s Office in coordination with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Allegations of criminal behavior should be brought to local police, sheriff's office, FBI, or other appropriate law enforcement agency.
How may I get a criminal case dismissed?
Generally, once a warrant is issued in Magistrate’s court, it cannot be recalled. Additionally, victim crimes such as criminal domestic violence, assault and battery, and unlawful use of telephone can only be dismissed by the Solicitor for just cause. A victim may petition the Solicitor through an Affidavit requesting that a particular case be dismissed. This affidavit must be signed before a Magistrate, however the final decision on prosecution rests with the Pickens County Solicitor’s Office.
Where do I pay a traffic ticket?
All traffic court cases are initially heard at the Centralized Traffic Court, currently located in the Pickens County Magistrate Court, 310 West Main Street (Hwy 93), Liberty, South Carolina, 29657. If you have lost or misplaced your ticket, you should contact Pickens County Centralized Traffic Court for assistance. If a ticket was issued by an officer of a municipality within Pickens County, instructions telling you in which court you must appear are on the copy of the ticket you received. Summary Court Administration does not have access to Municipal Court records.
Therefore, please contact the appropriate Municipal Court if your ticket was written by the police department of a local municipality.
Does your office provide information pertaining to any of the following?
- Federal and State tax liens
- Records of land transactions
- Filing general partnership forms
The Magistrates' Courts in Pickens County do not handle any of these records. For information regarding any of these items, you should contact the RMC (Registrar of Mesne Conveyance) Office in the Pickens County Administration Office Building located at 222 McDaniel Avenue in Pickens. Their phone number is (864) 898-5868.
Can I make my child support payments at a Magistrates' Court?
No. Child Support payments are accepted at Family Court, located in the Main Courthouse located at 214 East Main Street in Pickens.
Do I go to Magistrates' Courts for a marriage license?
Marriage licenses are not issued by Magistrates' Courts. You may obtain a marriage license or receive information pertaining to marriage licenses by contacting the Pickens County Probate Court, located in the Pickens County Administration Building, 222 McDaniel Avenue, Pickens. The phone number is (864) 898-5903.
Can I register to vote at your office?
No. Voter registration in Pickens County is handled by the office of Voter Registration which may be reached at (864) 898-5948.
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 $7,500.00, the matter is filed and heard in Magistrates’ Court or “Small Claims Court”.
How do I file a Small Claims case? Is there a charge?
A Small Claims action is commenced by the filing and service of a summons and complaint, together with the appropriate filing fees. Parties instituting a Small Claims action are required to pay the filing fee at the time the case is filed. The current fee is $80.00. Complaints may be accompanied by an application to proceed in forma pauperis, meaning that the plaintiff is incapable of paying the filing fee.
Summons and complaint forms are available at any Magistrate’s Court within Pickens County or from this webite at Summons and Complaint form and Affidavit and Itemization Form . You must bring a current Pickens County address for the person against whom you wish to file the case so that the summons may be properly served. If you are attempting to collect from a person who lives outside Pickens County, or from a business located in another county, you must file your case in the county in which the person resides, or in which the business is located.
Where Do I file a Small Claims Case?
Small Claims cases (civil claims under $7,500.00) may be filed at any of the four Magistrates Courts in Pickens County. See the Staff Directory page for addresses and phone numbers for each court.
I have a judgment from Small Claims Court. How do I have it executed?
Transcripts of Judgment are filed with the Clerk of Court; executions against property are performed by the County Sheriff. Simply bring in your original transcript of judgment and file it with the clerk, along with an execution form that must be filled out by you or your attorney. The clerk will sign and seal the execution. Because cases from a lower court may be appealed for 30 days following the judgment, a waiting period of 30 days from date of judgment must pass before you can have the judgment executed. After the 30-day waiting period, take your transcript of judgment and execution against property to the County Sheriff's office.
What is a Landlord/Tenant dispute?
A landlord/tenant dispute is generally filed by the tenant against the landlord, for such issues as failure to maintain the rental property, unlawful eviction, or other such complaint. There is a $40 filing fee for Landlord/tenant disputes.
How do I go about evicting a renter for non-payment of rent?
A landlord may file for eviction in Magistrates' Courts. You should contact the Magistrates' Court nearest you for information regarding jurisdiction; the court staff will help you in determining which Magistrates' Court is the one in which you should file your case. You may also obtain the proper forms from the Court or from this website at Application for ejectment The entire process is in two parts, and may take from 15 to 20 days to complete. Application for eviction may only be made for one of three reasons:
- The tenant fails or refuses to pay rent when due or demanded.
- A term or condition of the lease has been violated. In such an instance, the landlord must be able to provide the section of the lease which has been violated.
- The term of tenancy or occupancy has ended.
It is important to note that you may not file for an Eviction until the tenant is more than five days delinquent in paying their rent (that is, on the sixth day following the day the rent was due). In South Carolina, a verbal rental agreement is as valid as a written contract, so it is not necessary to have a written lease agreement. However, in situations where there is a written agreement, the terms of the lease take precedence over the Landlord/Tenant act. In other words, if you have a written agreement that gives your tenant fifteen days in which to pay, you cannot file for eviction until the fifteen days have passed.
A $40 filing fee is attached to the first application, which is the Affidavit and Application of Ejectment and Rule To Show Cause. This paper gives the tenant 10 days from the date of service to settle with the landlord, move, or request a hearing to show cause why s/he should not be evicted. If the tenant does not settle, move, or request the Show Cause hearing at the end of this period, the landlord should make the application for the second paper of the eviction process, which is titled a Writ (or Warrant) Of Ejectment. There is a second $10 filing fee required with this paper. The Court prepares the paperwork and a sheriff’s deputy will serve the tenant. This second notice gives the tenant 24 hours to vacate. If the tenant fails to vacate within the allowed time, the landlord must arrange an eviction (set-out) date with the Sheriff’s Office.
What is a Claim and Delivery case?
A Claim and Delivery suit is filed when you wish to repossess certain kinds of property. For example, a furniture rental company may wish to repossess a sofa when the renter fails to make his/her rental payments. Claim and Delivery suits are also commonly filed by finance companies. There is a $65 filing fee for this type of case. You may obtain the proper forms and pay the filing fee in the Magistrates' Court for the area in which the property is located. The proper forms are also available on this website at Affidavit Claim and Delivery . If you are unsure about which Magistrates' Court serves your area, call any Magistrates' Court for information.
What is a Pre-Distress Warrant?
A Pre-Distress Warrant is generally filed when the plaintiff wishes to seize property belonging to the defendant, in situations where the defendant is the plaintiff's tenant. There is a $40 filing fee for a Pre-Distress Warrant. If a warrant is granted by the judge, any monies collected from the sale of the defendant's property can ONLY be used to cover the amount of rent which is overdue. Pre-Distress warrants may be (though not always) filed in conjunction with an Eviction.
What is a Sale on Abandoned Property?
This type of case is generally filed by garage-men, towing companies or storage facilities in situations where property such as a vehicle, boat, furniture or other personal property has been abandoned by the person named as the defendant. The property must be abandoned for a period of 30 days before the case can be filed. Additionally, there are other rules which must be followed to proceed with a sale on abandoned property. The purpose of such a case is to allow the court to sell the property at public auction in order for the plaintiff to recovers any loss or damage resulting from the abandonment. There is a filing fee of $35 payable upon the filing of the case. All sales on abandoned property are handled through the Liberty Magistrates Court.
How does a person file an appeal on a civil case?
The Court of Common Pleas handles appeals from Magistrate civil cases. You have 30 days from the date of trial in which to file an appeal on a civil case. Appeals on civil cases are automatically scheduled as non-jury matters and are set by the Pickens County Clerk of Court. Civil appeals are placed on the court's roster and will come before a judge based on the date the appeal was filed. Civil appeals do not take precedence over any other Common Pleas case.
How does a person file an appeal on a criminal case?
You have ten days from the date of your trial to file your appeal with the Pickens County Court of Common Pleas. The adjudicating Magistrate must also be personally served with a copy of the appeal after it has been filed with the Clerk of Court. The Magistrate must then issue his Return and submit it along with your appeal to the Clerk of Court within thirty days. A Circuit Judge will then review the appeal along with the Magistrates Return and render his/her decision.
What is an "expungement"?
An expungement of record is a process by which the records of a criminal conviction are destroyed or sealed after a certain length of time. This includes records in files, on computer, or in any other depositories. Following an expungement, it is as if the criminal case never existed in so far as the defendant is concerned.
When a case is expunged in Pickens County, the court's computer records are modified so that all references to the defendant are removed from the record. Typically, an expunged case record will contain a reference such as "Expungement, 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.)
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, OR
- The charges against you were dismissed, "nol 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 three years 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.
How do I get my criminal record 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 for a disposition through PTI or under Code Section 22-5-910 during your lifetime. In order to obtain an expungement you must first meet the eligibility requirements listed above, and you must apply in person at the Pickens County Solicitor’s office located at the Pickens County Courthouse. There is no charge by the Solcitor’s Office to determine if your charge qualifies for expungement, however, a $150.00 processing fee is payable at the time of application. The application, after review and qualification may be granted by a Circuit Court Judge.
Once the application has been processed, the Expungement Order will be issued by the Clerk of Court. Finally, you should distribute certified copies of the order to appropriate agencies and departments in which the charge was recorded: Sheriff's Office, SC Department of Public Safety, Office of the Solicitor, the Circuit or Magistrates' Courts, or SLED.
Can you give me advice about my lawsuit?
Summary Court staff is not permitted to give legal advice, nor can they give you an opinion regarding your legal questions. Persons seeking advice or acting as their own attorneys should consult the most recent edition of South Carolina Rules of Court, or contact the S.C. Senate for Equal Justice at (803) 720-7044.
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 Pickens County Clerk of Court at (864) 898-5651. There is no right to free legal assistance in civil proceedings. Some litigants proceed pro se; that is, they represent themselves before the court. It is common for litigants in Magistrates' Civil cases to act as their own attorneys.
Can you recommend an attorney or law firm to me?
Personnel in the Magistrates' Courts are prohibited from referring you to an attorney.
Can I act as my own attorney when filing a case?
Yes, you have the right to act as your own attorney. Magistrates' Court office staff cannot give you any advice regarding the law, however they can explain court procedures to you so that you may make a more informed decision.
How can I check on the status of my case? Can I review case files?
Your lawyer, who likely is familiar with local court practice, is your best resource. If you are acting as your own attorney, you may call or visit the Magistrates' Court where your case is filed. Generally, all documents filed in Magistrates' Courts are public records and are available at the court in which they were filed.
How can I find out when my case is coming up for trial (or another scheduled event such as a hearing?)
You can check on the events such as criminal pre-trial conferences, criminal bench or jury trials at the Central Magistrate’s Court by inquiring with your case number (if known) or by your name. For Civil Jury trials or Fraudulent Check Court, contact the Liberty Magistrate’s Court. All other inquiries should be made to the court where your civil action was filed. If you are a defendant in a criminal case or a litigant in a civil case, you will be notified by U. S. Certified Mail of the date and time of any trial or hearing scheduled. It is your responsibility to notify the court of any change of address. Failure to provide correct mailing information may result is a trial in absentia for criminal offenses or a directed verdict or dismissal in a civil case.
Do you provide case and judgment information to companies such as credit bureaus?
The clerks are unable to 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 the Public Index on the Internet at www.13th-judicial-circuit.org.