Thousands of people in York County, who face the possibility of jail due to low-level court convictions, have what appears to be a get out of jail card.
The reason? Many never appeared before a judge, but were convicted in absence. That means those charged were never told by a judge of their Constitutional right to a lawyer for any crime that carries a fine or jail time.
Several York County judges now have stopped jailing offenders who have been convicted, but never appeared in court.
The chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, Judge Donald Beatty, said in a September memorandum to all state summary court judges that it’s illegal to jail anyone who has neither waived their right to a lawyer nor had a lawyer in the first place.
The directive affects all of South Carolina — county magistrates and municipal courts. The directive, which was sent to all judges on Sept. 15, affects warrants for convictions that have not been served or executed.
Summary courts are magistrate and municipal courts that hear most of