Finding the appropriate magistrate will depend upon the nature of your problem or claim.

The laws of South Carolina require that a small claim, or virtually every other claim of a civil nature, be filed in the county where the defendant lives. If the defendant lives in a county distant from you, you should file your claim in a magistrate's court having jurisdiction in that county. The magistrate in that county will then have a copy of your complaint, along with a summons, served upon the defendant.

Once this is done, that magistrate acquires jurisdiction, or authority, to hear your case.

If you and the defendant both live in the same county, you should file your claim in the magistrate's court in that area of the county where the defendant resides, unless local custom provides otherwise.

A claim and delivery action to obtain possession of personal property must be filed with a magistrate in the county where the personal property is located.

The provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code may apply if an individual living in another state conducts business with you in South Carolina. You may sue such an individual in South Carolina, in the magistrate's court in the county where the debt was incurred.

However, unless the out of state defendant owns property located in South Carolina against which you can enforce your judgment, you may find your efforts are a waste of time and money.

A landlord-tenant action should be filed in the county and in the area where the rental property is located.

If you are the victim of a crime and want to have an individual arrested, you must see a magistrate in the county in which the criminal offense was committed, which might not necessarily be the county in which the defendant resides.

This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.