CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)- From July 5 to July 8, defendants in Charleston County can get back in touch with the court system during “Get A Lawyer Week.”

Those who have not responded to the court’s recent communications will be able to come in to reconnect with the county without penalties. The event is happening because the Charleston County Circuit Court has seen an increase in people not showing up to hearings because of the pandemic.

“Come down, get screened and don’t be afraid,” said Judge Deadra L. Jefferson of the Charleston County Circuit Court. “Our goal is to get people who have been displaced reestablished in the system.”

Defendants who are out on surety bonds or personal recognizance bonds are encouraged to come in.

“Most people don’t realize that a condition of your bond is that you stay in touch with the court and that you keep your address updated,” said Judge Jefferson. “The sooner you confront it and deal with it, the sooner you can put it behind you.”

The start of disposing of cases is finding representation for trials. Defendants can apply for a public defender to represent them in person this week.

“This is the chance to come in and get screened by the public defender’s office,” said Judge Jefferson.

Get A Lawyer in Charleston County

  • Come in-person from July 5 – 8.
  • O.T. Wallace Building, 101 Meeting Street, Room 130.
  • Screeners will be available on these days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Defendants with any charge are welcome.

However, if defendants prefer to hire a lawyer then they still need to get in touch with the court.

“We encourage people to hire private council if they possibly can. In fact people don’t have to come to the courthouse if they can this week hire a private attorney and have that private attorney send in a notice to the clerk of court,” said Ashley Pennington, a Public Defender for the Ninth Circuit.

This event was done by the courts in Berkeley County before and was successful. 630 of over 1,500 defendants were able to be processed.

“We actually had four offices. The solicitor’s office, the clerk of courts’ office, the police office and the sheriff’s office to help remedy this issue,” said Leah Dupree, the Clerk of Courts for Berkeley County. “It was very challenging and we’re working very diligently.”

The threat that looms over defendants who don’t stay in touch with the court and fail to appear is a bench warrant. Then, an arrest could be made.

“I would hate for them to lose everything as a result of sitting in the jail for a week,” said Judge Jefferson.

Charleston County Circuit Court officials are using the event as a chance to dig into the backlog of court cases caused by the pandemic.

“We disposed of close to 8,000 cases between June and December which is a lot of cases,” said Judge Jefferson. “We are now coming back with the easing of the CDC guidelines back into more normalcy in terms of having two trial courts operating and one non-jury court operating.”