Q: Is there a difference between "Summary Court" and "Magistrate Court"?
A: These terms are used interchangeably to refer to courts presided over by a Magistrate.
Q: What kind of civil cases does Magistrate Court hear?
A: Magistrates hear several types of civil cases, the most common being Summons & Complaint (disputes over money, services, etc. valued at $7,500 or less), Claim & Delivery (procedures to recover personal property), Evictions, Landlord/Tenant disputes, Public Sales on Abandoned Property, and issuing Restraining Orders. Defendants file civil cases in the area where they live.
Q: Can I receive a jury trial in Magistrate Court?
A: Yes, you are entitled to a jury trial if requested in a timely manner and in writing. A jury trial request should include your CURRENT mailing address and phone number and the name of your attorney if one is representing you. Jury Trial Request forms are available at each Magistrate’s office or you may write your own request.
Q: How do I file a criminal case?
A: Crime victims must make a report with the Sheriff’s Office and deliver a copy of the incident report to present to the Magistrate. The Magistrate will determine if there is enough probable cause to file an arrest warrant. Depending on the type of charge, you may need to sign the sworn affidavit for a courtesy summons. The Sheriff’s Office or other appropriate law enforcement agency handles all other charges.
Q: If I accept a check for payment of merchandise or services and the bank returns the check due to insufficient funds, what can I do?
A: It is preferred that you contact the Solicitor´s Worthless Check Unit at 843-545-3178. This agency will completely process the bad check for you. Otherwise, you may present bad checks to the Magistrate’s Court to have a courtesy summons issued if the following stipulations have been met:
1) You deposited the check within ten days after the party wrote the check.
2) The party wrote the check within the last 180 days (roughly 6 months).
3) The bank did not pay the check due to Insufficient Funds, Account Closure, No Account, etc.
4) You sent a Notice of Dishonor to the Payer by certified mail giving that person 10 days to pay the check and returned check fees due (a maximum of $25 for checks under $100 or a maximum of $30 for checks over $100).
5) You must present the check, a copy of the Notice of Dishonor and the certified receipt to the court before the issuance of an arrest warrant. It is advisable to have a street address for the person who wrote the check.
Q: Does your office provide information pertaining to tax liens, land transactions or general partnership filings?
A: No. Magistrates’ Courts do not handle these matters.
Q: Do I make child support payments at Magistrates’ Courts?
A: No. The Family Court Child Support Office strictly handles Child support payments.
Q: Do I go to Magistrate’s Court for a marriage license?
A: No. Probate Court handles Marriage license applications.
Q: Do you give advice about my case or recommend an attorney?
A: No. Magistrates’ Courts staff cannot give legal advice. The staff can instruct you on the procedures to file a case and explain court procedures to you. The staff cannot recommend an attorney to you. You may contact the local or state Bar Association for a list of attorneys.
Small Claims, Rental, and Property:
Q: When is a case a matter for "Small Claims" and when is it for "Common Pleas"?
A: Magistrate Court handle claims valued at $7,500 or less. Common Pleas handles anything greater than $7,500.
Q: How do I file a case in your court? Is there a charge?
A: When you come to any of our offices, you complete an information sheet that will briefly outline your complaint and any damages you believe you are entitled. Be sure to have the defendant’s physical address or a description of how to locate their premises, supporting documentation such as notices of evictions, contracts, bills of sale, titles, certified receipts and letters if mailed, and any other pertinent information. The court clerk will enter your information into the computer system and produce documents to sign for your particular case. Filing fees are due at the time of filing. Our most common fees are $80 for Summons & Complaint, $65 for the Claim & Delivery cases, $40 for Evictions, $35 for Judicial Sales and Restraining Orders are no cost. This is a list of our most common requests; you may obtain a complete list of fees from any one of our locations. See our COURT STAFF AND DIRECTORY for contact information.
Q: Where do I file my civil case?
A: One files civil cases in the county or state where the defendant lives or operates a business (if the claim is against the business itself). You may file civil suits against Corporations in the county where they own property and operate their regular business. Within Georgetown County, there are magisterial districts that handle your case. The districts divisions are as follows:
All parts of the city of Georgetown; north on Highway 701 to the southern border of the Black River including the Kensington, Beneventum and Browns Ferry communities.
West on Highway 521 to the intersection of Alternate 17 commonly known as the Nine-Mile Curve.
South on Alternate 17 encompassing all communities on the east side of Alternate 17 to Powell Road proceeding south on Powell Road to include most of the Sampit Community all of the North Santee Community.
South on Highway 17 to the Charleston County line and encompassing the Maryville, Belle Isle, Belle Island Forest, South Island and Midway communities.
All parts of the town of Andrews, east on Highway 521 to the intersection of Alternate 17 commonly known as the Nine-Mile Curve, South on Alternate 17 encompassing all communities on the west side of this highway including the Oak Grove, Street Delight/Lamberttown, Ten Acre Road and Oceda communities.
South on Highway 41 to the Berkeley County line and north on Highway 41 to include the Big Dam and Potato Bed Ferry communities.
Pleasant Hill Office:
All areas north of the Black River including the Plantersville, Choppee, Carver’s Bay, Folly Grove, Pee Dee, Yauhannah, Rhems, Outland and Pleasant Hill communities.
Pawleys Island Office:
All areas north of Georgetown on Highway 17 starting at the base of the Waccamaw River/Intracoastal Waterway bridge including the Debordieau, Prince George, Hagley, Pawleys Island (mainland and island), Midway, Litchfield and North Litchfield communities.
All of Murrells Inlet including the Georgetown County portion of Garden City
All areas south on Highway 17 to the Huntington Beach/Brookgreen Gardens area
If you are unsure where to go, you may contact the Georgetown office and they will direct you.
Q: I have a judgment from Magistrate’s Court. How do I have it executed?
A: Once rendered and the proper time limit has expired, present a Transcript of Judgment to the Clerk of Court office where you may exercise one of two options. You may pay a small filing fee to have the transcript placed on the defendant’s record or you may pay a slightly higher fee to obtain an Execution Order, then presented to the Sheriff’s Office in order to have property seized and sold for the judgment.
Q: How do I go about evicting a renter for non-payment of rent?
A: A landlord must give a minimum of five days written notice to the tenant regarding their failure to pay rent. Once the fifth day has been completed the landlord may file an Order and Rule to Evict at the appropriate Magistrate’s Court, presenting at the time of filing, a copy of the eviction notice. The filing fee for this is $40. The defendant is served upon filing, and is then given 10 days to file a response and request a hearing. If the tenant fails to vacate the premises and does not ask for a hearing, the landlord must pay an additional $10 fee to file the actual Writ of Ejectment. The defendant is served the Writ of Ejectment and must vacate the premises within twenty-four hours. If the defendant fails to vacate the premises, the Sheriff’s Office will remove the defendant from the premises.
You may also complete Applications for Evictions for a violation of lease terms and conditions or if the term of tenancy or occupancy has expired. Contact the appropriate office for assistance in these matters where forms are available to follow the correct procedures.
Q: What is a Claim and Delivery case?
A: A Claim and Delivery case is filed when a person wishes to repossess certain kinds of property. Most commonly, this is the result of a bad debt where the owner used property as collateral such as automobiles, furniture, appliances, etc. In order to proceed, you must present to the court that you are entitled to the property by contract, bill of sale or entitlement. The account must be in default by at least ten days and a certified letter of Right to Cure should have been sent at least twenty days prior to making application to the court for this proceeding and a copy of that letter should be presented upon filing the case. The fee for this proceeding is $55.
Q: What is a Judicial Sale?
A: Towing companies or storage facilities usually file for a Judicial Sale for abandoned property such as a vehicle, boat or trailer. The property must be abandoned for a period of 30 days and an effort must be made to contact the owner to remove the property. The purpose for this type of case is to receive permission from the court to sell the abandoned property and keep the proceeds of the sale to cover storage costs. Contact any one of our offices for more details.
Appeals and Expungements:
Q: Can you tell me how to appeal a decision of the Summary Court?
A: A decision of the court may be appealed by making a written notice of your intent to appeal to the other party (ies) involved to the Summary Court and the Common Pleas court. You must pay a filing fee to Common Pleas. You must make written notice within 30 days, if it was a civil case and 10 days if it is a criminal case.
Q: Can you explain an "expungement"?
A: An expungement is destroying or sealing of your records of a criminal charge in Magistrates’ Court where you were found not guilty, the charge was dismissed or not prosecuted. Cases that fall in this category and were disposed of prior to June 2, 2009 ca n be expunged but the party will need to make a written request to the appropriate Magistrate Court. Cases disposed of after June 2, 2009 are processed as the disposition is entered into the computer system in accordance with the rules governing the Magistrates’ Courts.
Q: I have heard about a program called PTI. What is PTI? Can I enroll in the program?
A: PTI is an abbreviation for the Pre-Trial Intervention program. Defendants may only enroll in this program upon the recommendation of the court, officer, victim and attorney involved. There is an enrollment fee and participants are required to attend counseling sessions and complete a prescribed amount of community service hours. Successful completion of this program qualifies the participant to have an expungement of the criminal record for which the participant was enrolled. The Magistrate’s Court completes the applications and forwards it to the PTI office for completion. You may contact any office for further details or contact the Pre-Trial Intervention office in the Solicitor’s Office.
Q: Do I really have to serve jury duty?
A: Unless you are disqualified or exempted from jury duty you must appear on the date and time of your jury summons. The Magistrate must grant all other excuses.
Q: My boss says that he/she needs me to work the week I am called for jury duty; can I be excused?
A: Generally, the court does not excuse someone for this type of work-related issue; however, if scheduled to be out-of-town on business or if you have a unique situation, the Magistrate may excuse you or transfer you to another term. The Magistrate will review this on a case-by-case nature and excuses or transfers are entirely at the discretion of the Magistrate.
Q: What is the difference between serving on a Magistrates’ Courts jury and a Common Pleas or General Sessions jury?
A: Jury panels for Magistrate’s Court are comprised of 6 members; Circuit courts are 12 members. Circuit courts usually require their jurors to return to the court each day for service. Magistrate’s Court selects jurors and notifies them of dates and times to return. If not selected to serve on a case, jurors do not have to return. Jurors in Magistrate’s Court hear criminal misdemeanors, traffic cases, small claims and minor civil disputes.
Q: How long do I have to serve?
A: Jurors only serve on the date of the roll call or "roster meeting" and any additional selected dates. The court schedules jury trials within a one-week period. Generally, a juror does not serve on more than three cases within a week, but most jurors serve on less than that if at all.
Q: Do I receive pay for jury duty?
A: Jurors for Magistrate Court are paid $14 a day for their service. The court clerk can provide a juror excuse for your employer that states the days served and the amount of pay.
Q: What happens when I appear for jury duty?
A: When appearing in the Summary Court, someone directs you to the courtroom and instructs you on where you are to sit. When the roll call session begins, a court clerk will call the roll of all parties involved in the cases and then call a roll of the jurors. The Clerk may ask you to stand and identify yourself and briefly state your occupation and the occupation of your spouse. After the roll call, the judge will read a series of "voir dire" questions that are meant to inform the court whether a juror has prior knowledge of a case, is related to any of the parties involved, or if there are any prejudices and opinions of the juror that would prevent them from making a fair decision. Once this process is completed, the court proceeds in selecting jury panels for each case. The parties involved step forward and the jurors are randomly drawn. The court calls each juror and both sides have an opportunity to accept or decline the potential juror. If the juror is accepted, they will step into the jury box throughout the completion of jury selection. A clerk will review the names and verify phone numbers where jury panel members may be reached during the week; the jurors will be given a slip of paper that indicates the date and time of the trial they are to hear. The jurors return to their seat and the court draws the next jury until all cases have jurors selected. The court selects a total of six jurors and one alternate for each case.
Q: How should I dress?
A: You do not have to be "dressed up" for court; however, appropriate attire is required in the courtroom. This means no tank tops, shorts, hats, flip flops, etc. In addition, you may not bring any pagers or cell phones into the courtroom.
Q: Is there any special "courtroom etiquette" I should be aware of?
A: The first thing a juror needs to remember is to be on time, for the roll call and for the case(s) on which they are serving. When a court session begins and the judge enters the courtroom, everyone stands. Always give your undivided attention to every question and answer during a trial and the roll call process. Answer any questions addressed to you with complete honesty. You should try to be as quiet as possible while in the courtroom and even in the hallways outside the courtroom.