Bench trials are held most Thursdays at 5205 N. Trenholm Road in Forest Acres - near the intersection of Forest Drive and Trenholm Road. Court starts at 8:30 a.m., and if you have received a citation the date of your trial should be written on your ticket. Please only come to the court date you have been assigned.
Jury trials take place once every two months at the same location.
If you have questions about court, contact our clerk of court at (803) 790-5947. The court fax number is (803) 978-2857.
If you're unsure of how to get to court, use the map below for directions.
- Please arrive on time. Persons arriving after court has started may be denied entry.
- Small children may be denied entrance into the courtroom and any child disrupting court may be required to leave the courtroom. Please try to avoid bringing children to court.
- Appropriate dress is required. All private body parts must be fully covered. Undergarments may not be visible. Hats should be removed. Court staff may deny entry to those inappropriately dressed.
- No food, drink, tobacco or nicotine products may be consumed in the courtroom.
- If you have an emergency, please contact court staff prior to the start of court. Unless a continuance is granted by the presiding judge, you are expected to attend court as scheduled.
- Discussions and negotiations with the officer who issued your ticket(s) are a normal part of the court process. Allow yourself time for this prior to the start of court so as not to interrupt court proceedings once the judge takes the bench. You are not required to speak with the officer who issued your ticket(s).
- Be prepared to proceed when your case is called by the court clerk. It is helpful to bring your ticket(s) with you to court.
- Cell phones must be muted or turned off. If your phone rings or otherwise disturbs court proceedings, it will be taken by court staff and you may be required to pay a fine for its return at the conclusion of court.
- Work excuses may be provided by the court clerk before or after court.
- Please remain quiet, respectful and alert while court is in session. While in the audience, please refrain from talking while other cases are being heard, it is expected that the same courtesy can be afforded to you when your case is called.
- Please exit the courtroom in a quiet and behaved manner after your case has been heard.
When you are charged with a criminal offense, several rights must be afforded to you. You may waive or give up these rights only if you desire to do so. If you chose to waive any of your rights, the court will require that you do so in writing or on the court record. A brief summary of some of these very important rights follow but please ask for further explanation as you require from your lawyer or the court
Right to a lawyer. You may have a lawyer represent you. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer and your charge carries a potential sentence of jail time, a lawyer may be appointed to you by the Court. Please know that you must be screened to establish whether you are eligible for a court appointed lawyer. If you would like to apply for a court appointed lawyer, please see the court clerk prior to the start of court or ask the judge when your case is called.
Right to a jury trial. You may request a jury trial. If you request a jury trial, your case will be called and heard during a term of court when jurors are present. In a jury trial, six jurors are chosen to hear your case and they must all agree (unanimous verdict) that the city has proven the elements of the charge(s) against you beyond a reasonable doubt in order for you to be found guilty.
Right of confrontation. You have the right to be present and hear the testimony of the officer and any witnesses against you. You have the right to challenge that testimony by asking questions of the officer and/or any witness should you desire to do so.
Right to present witnesses and evidence on your behalf. You have the right to request that the Court summons witnesses to attend your trial and present evidence. You may also bring witnesses to court with you who may have information about your case. You also have the right to request that certain evidence be presented for review and introduction in your trial.
Right to remain silent. You are not required to give any testimony in your trial. If you chose not to testify, the judge (bench trial) or jury (jury trial) may not consider in any way that you chose not to testify when deciding your guilt or innocence.
You may qualify to participate in a diversion program. If so, successful participation and completion will result in the dismissal of your charge(s). You are only eligible to use each diversion program one time. Each program has specific criteria, rules and requirements. It may be beneficial to explore the available diversion programs prior to the start of court to see if you are eligible to apply. A brief description of each follows. Please know that for these programs, some fees may be waived if it is established that you are unable to pay. The terms of participation and completion of TEP, AEP and PTI are determined by the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and the terms of participation and completion of Conditional Discharge are determined by the sentencing judge.
- TEP – The Traffic Education Program (17-22-300)
- Eligible Offenses: Moving offense that carries a fine and loss of 4 points or less.
- Eligible Applicants: No significant traffic history.
- Fees: $140 application fee and a $140 participation fee.
- AEP-The Alcohol Education Program (17-22-510)
- Eligible Offenses: Any alcohol related offense provided for by law. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving with Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) charges are NOT eligible for AEP.
- Eligible Applicants: Persons between the ages of 17 and 21 at the time of offense with no history of alcohol related offenses or significant juvenile delinquency or criminal history.
- Fees: $250 participation fee.
- PTI- Pretrial Intervention (SC Code 17-22-10)
- Eligible offenses: Any offense not specifically excluded by SC law. Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving with Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) and Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV) charges are NOT eligible for PTI.
- Eligible Applicants: Determined by the 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s office receiving input from law enforcement and any victim(s)
- Fees: $150 application fee and a $250 participation fee. Restitution to any victim(s) of the crime may be required as well.
- Conditional discharge
- Eligible offenses: Public Disorderly Conduct and Possession of Marijuana. A guilty plea is required in order to participate.
- Eligible applicants: No prior drug conviction (Marijuana CD) and no prior Public Disorderly Conduct conviction (PDC CD)
- Fees: $150 at the conclusion of successfully completing the period of court monitoring.
Diversion Programs - Completion
If you successfully complete any diversion program, your charge(s) are dismissed, and you are then eligible to have all records of the charge expunged by the 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office. To complete the expungement process, you may be required complete additional paperwork and pay any applicable fees as set by that office.
It is your responsibility to notify the court clerk of any change of address. Failure to do so could result in you not receiving important notices and court dates about your case.
Diversion Programs - Unsuccessful Completion
If you are unsuccessful in completing the diversion program, your charge(s) will be referred back to court for disposition. You will have the same rights afforded to you as you have today and will need to make decisions on how to proceed in resolving your charge(s).
If you plead guilty and are given a Conditional Discharge (Marijuana or PDC) but do not successfully complete the requirements as set forth by the judge, you will be required to return to court for a sentencing hearing. The plea of guilty will be entered against you at that time and a fine and/or jail time will be imposed.
It is your responsibility to notify the court clerk of any change of address. Failure to do so could result in you not receiving notices and court dates about your case.
Disposition of Your Charge(s)
- You may plead not guilty to your charge(s). If you plead not guilty, the Court will need to know whether you want a jury trial or a bench trial. If you waive your right to a jury trial and wish to proceed with a bench trial, your guilt or innocence will be determined by the presiding judge on your scheduled court date after hearing testimony and considering any evidence presented.
- You may plead guilty or no contest as to the offense(s) charged on your ticket or to a lesser charge as agreed to by you and the charging officer. The presiding judge will determine the appropriate fine and/or sentence that should be imposed based on the law and after hearing from all parties.
When your cases is called
- When your case is called by the court clerk, please walk to the front of the courtroom and stand behind the table on your right.
- The Court will state the original charge(s) and ask the parties involved how the case is going to proceed.
- You will be asked if you understand the charge(s) and if you are ready to proceed. If you are requesting a continuance of your case, please be prepared to state the reasons why you are requesting a continuance.
- If you are applying for a diversion program, please let the Court know.
- If you have spoken with the officer who issued your ticket(s) and there is a plea agreement, the officer will state the agreement and the Court will ask if that is your understanding of the agreement.
- You will be asked if you understand your rights and if you have any questions for the Court. The Court is not allowed to give legal advice but can answer basic procedural questions.
- The Court will inform you of the penalties and any additional consequences associated with your charge(s).
- The Court will ask you for your plea: guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
- If pleading guilty or no contest, you may speak to the judge after you enter your plea and convey any mitigating factors you want the judge to consider when imposing the appropriate fine or punishment.
- If pleading not guilty, you need to let the Court know if you are requesting a jury trial or a bench trial when your case is called.
Victims and Witnesses
- If you have been summonsed to court because you are a witness or a victim in a case, please let the court staff know that you are present prior to the start of court.
- When the case for which you have been summonsed is called, please walk to the front of the courtroom towards the prosecution table which will be on your left.
- If you are a victim and are requesting restitution, please have all documentation identifying your costs and loss readily available for the defendant, the officer and the Court to review.
- Victims should contact Frances Reynolds at (803) 404-5337 for assistance or information.
- If you plead guilty or no contest or are found guilty by a judge or jury, you will be sentenced by the court.
- Most offenses handled in this court carry a fine or up to a 30 day jail sentence. If your potential sentence is different, the court will notify you prior to your plea or trial.
- You may pay your fine with a credit or debit card, money order, cashiers check or cash. You may not pay your fine with a personal check. If you pay with a credit or debit card, an additional fee of 1.07% plus $1.00 per ticket will be added to your total amount due.
- The Court will consider your particular circumstances when determining the terms of a time payment plan. If you are approved, there will be a 3% fee added to your fine. The scheduled date to finalize payment of the fine will be an Order of the Court and any violation or failure to pay as scheduled will require you return to court and explain why the fine has not been paid as ordered.
- For certain traffic offenses, unpaid fines will prompt the court to forward your information to the DMV and your driver’s license may be suspended for failure to pay your ticket(s). Driving with a suspended license is a separate criminal offense.
New Trials and Appeals
- Motions for a new trial must be made within ten (10) days of a conviction and sentencing in this court. If your motion is denied, you may file a notice of intention to appeal as described below.
- You may appeal any conviction in this court by serving a notice of intention to appeal upon the Forest Acres Municipal Court within ten (10) days of sentencing and filing an appeal with the Clerk of Court for Richland County Common Pleas Court at 1701 Main Street, Columbia, SC. In your appeal, you must state the grounds for your appeal.
- You may also appeal an order of this court setting restitution in your case by serving a notice of intention to appeal upon the Forest Acres Municipal Court within thirty (30) days of the court’s restitution order and filing an appeal with the Clerk of Court for Richland County Common Pleas Court at 1701 Main Street, Columbia, SC
SC Drivers License Points
- Many of the traffic offenses handled in this court carry points associated with your driver's license.
- In South Carolina, traffic/driving offenses may carry either two (2), four (4), or six (6) points.
- Point assignments to offenses are directed by the General Assembly in SC Code Section 56-1-720 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/title56.php w.scstatehouse.gov/code/title56.php)
- The Court does NOT have the power to reduce or suspend points for any traffic/driving offense that carries points. The offense to which you plead or are convicted of determines the points assessed to your license.