How Long Do Police Have to Charge You with a Crime?

Many people contact a Clemson criminal defense lawyer with a dilemma: they were arrested and booked by the police, but no formal charges were brought against them. They naturally wonder: how long does it take before being charged with a crime? Are you free from legal troubles if weeks pass and there are no charges?

The situation is not as simple as that. On the contrary, in South Carolina it is hard to say when you can put a potential criminal charge behind you. Here is the reason why:

South Carolina Has No Statute of Limitations for Criminal Charges

Most U.S. states have a time limit for the prosecutor to file charges for a criminal offense against an individual. This time limit, called the statute of limitation, varies depending on the severity of the crime. For the most serious crimes, such as murder, there is no time limit at all.

Unfortunately, South Carolina does not have a statute of limitation for any criminal offense. From drug possession to theft or illegal gun possession, there is no time limit until the state can press charges.

This creates a challenging situation for potential defendants, as they must expect at any moment to be formally charged – even years after the event that may represent a breach of South Carolina laws.

Do I Have to Wonder If I Will Be Charged with a Crime Forever?

First of all, it is important to understand how a criminal case initiates. The South Carolina Code of Laws states that the police can arrest a person for the commission of a misdemeanor or felony. The police must either witness the commission of the crime or have reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed the crime.

After the arrest, the person will be taken to a police station and go through the booking process. From this point onwards, the prosecution can charge the person with a crime.

However, this does not happen all the time. In some cases, the prosecution will decide not to file charges. In other cases, an experienced lawyer can determine the prosecutor to drop the charges.

Common Reasons Why You May Not Be Charged on the Spot

When you consult with a Clemson criminal defense lawyer, they will analyze all the facts of the case and the evidence against you. Based on these factors, it is possible to identify various reasons why you should not be charged with a crime and present them to the prosecution.

Here are just a few of these reasons:

the police will not always charge you immediately after the arrest

1. Inconclusive Evidence

When it comes to criminal cases, the prosecutor must be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to do so, they should bring both direct (physical) evidence and indirect (circumstantial) evidence.

If the prosecution only has circumstantial evidence, they may be aware that it does not meet the conditions set by the Supreme Court of South Carolina to obtain a conviction in court.

2. Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity issues occur more often than you would believe. Eyewitnesses and video recordings can give descriptions that may match you. Or, the available circumstantial evidence may create a chain of coincidences pointing to you.

A skilled lawyer can solve this issue by demonstrating that you are not the person who committed the crime.

3. Errors in Obtaining or Handling Evidence

The police and the prosecution must also follow rules in making arrests, obtaining and handling evidence. If any of these rules are broken, the prosecution may delay making charges in the hope of correcting the mistake.

However, as soon as an attorney realizes that the current evidence is inadmissible in court, they will discuss with the prosecution and push towards clearing your name.

Let a Clemson Criminal Defense Lawyer Help You Avoid Being Charged with a Crime!

For a Clemson criminal defense lawyer, it is always simpler to put an end to a criminal case before it begins. If you were arrested but not charged with a crime, do not delay seeking legal advice.

The prosecution has all the time in the world to seek new evidence or to let a case of mistaken identity slip down the cracks in the system, until you actually have to seek the dismissal of charges in court.

Act quickly and schedule a free case evaluation with us. Call 864-263-1679!


We are dedicated to upholding justice and serving your legal needs. Don’t wait, get the help you need. Boatwright Legal is here for you!