South Carolina DUI Lawyer

South Carolina DUI Defense Attorney

Although a police officer may ostensibly pull you over for texting while driving, speeding, crossing a yellow line, running a stop sign, or driving in an erratic manner, another likely reason for such a traffic stop is suspected impaired driving.

In other words, the officer is really pulling you over believing that you are operating your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You should immediately arrange for a South Carolina DUI lawyer to be present during any police questioning or interrogation.

A police officer can only pull you over when there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or probable cause of a traffic violation.  These types of traffic stops, called pretextual traffic stops, are valid and constitutional under both South Carolina law as well as federal law. DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are also constitutional under both federal and state law with statistic verification and record keeping requirements are met.

If an officer pulls you over and determines that you are operating your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, you will be arrested. However, it is important to realize that your constitutional rights are still in full force, and when it comes to police questioning, invoking your right to remain silent is preferred to prevent you from possibly incriminating yourself.  Please note that a refusal of the breath test results in a six month suspension of your South Carolina Driver’s License.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you need experienced legal representation on your side. A South Carolina DUI lawyer can help to maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable result in your case. En Español

What Happens Immediately after a DUI Arrest?

DUI’s in South Carolina are arrestable offenses, and the police officer will place the suspected offender in handcuffs and into a police squad car. The arrestee will then be processed in accordance with standard police booking protocols for the county or jurisdiction where the arrest occurs.

As a DUI lawyer can tell those charged in South Carolina, this part of the arrest process includes the following:

  • Booking
  • Photographing
  • Fingerprinting
  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test (breath, urine, or blood)
  • Police questioning and interrogation
  • Bond hearing within 24 hours of arrest.

Questioning by a Police Officer Before, During, or After an Arrest

During a traffic stop, and sometimes after arresting the driver for a DUI, police officers will ask a series of criminal investigative questions. By law, the driver is not required to answer these questions and may request that a South Carolina DUI attorney be present during questioning.

This legal right against self-incrimination stems from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. If the driver requests an attorney immediately prior to any police questioning, the driver cannot be forced to answer a police officer’s questions until after an attorney is made available and is present for the questioning.

However, a driver of a vehicle in South Carolina must provide a police office a valid Driver’s License, proof of insurance and current registration.  Other than those three requirements, you do not have to answer any of investigative question by a police officer.

Any evidence obtained as a result of improper police questioning or interrogation techniques could possibly be suppressed at the criminal trial.

What are the Laws Regarding Drunk Driving in South Carolina?

According to the South Carolina Code of Laws §56-5-2930, it is illegal for any person to drive a motor vehicle in the State. The law says that an allegation of drunk driving must prove that a person’s ability to drive – the person’s mental and physical faculties – were materially and appreciably impaired.

As a result, many drunk driving or driving while high charges center around a police officer’s observations. If that officer claims to smell alcohol, observe glassy eyes, or hear slurred speech, this may be enough to justify an arrest. However, SC Code §56-5-2946 also requires drivers to submit to mandatory breath or blood tests upon the request of the arresting officer, which is known as implied consent testing. If this test reveals a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or more, this is evidence of intoxication per se and a person could be charged with Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC).  Lower test results may not result in an automatic dismissal depending on the facts and circumstances of these case but may instead be evidence of impairment.

What Are The Potential Consequences of a Conviction?

Every accusation of DUI in South Carolina is a serious matter. A first offense can result in a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours with a maximum time of 30 days. Additionally, a conviction results in the payment of a $400 fine. A conviction also requires a party to complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) at their own expense.

The penalties do not end there. The court will also suspend an offender’s license for six months. However, participation in the ADSAP program may allow a person to obtain a provisional license. Keep in mind that these are the penalties for a first offense that is not of an aggravated nature. A subsequent offense will carry enhanced penalties, as will accusations of extreme intoxication or endangering the lives of others. A South Carolina DUI attorney could help to explain the potential penalties for conviction.

Contesting the Prosecution’s Evidence

DUIs are among the most common criminal cases heard in South Carolina’s courts. This is partially because the cases are highly defensible based on the South Carolina Code of Laws (the video recording and implied consent statutes).  Police officers must follow strict procedures when stopping a driver and when demanding blood or breath samples. An officer who fails to follow these processes taints the prosecution’s evidence.

It is also possible to contest the nature of the evidence in court. The accuracy of breathalyzer (DataMaster DMT) tests is up for debate, and an attorney could help to argue that these devices are unreliable. In cases that rely on an officer’s observations, an experienced South Carolina DUI attorney could cross-examine this witness to call their recollections or judgments into question.

Meeting with Legal Counsel

If a police officer begins asking the driver questions either during the traffic stop – or after an arrest has already been made – the driver should politely decline to answer any questions until legal counsel can be present.

The police officer must also allow a reasonable time for the driver to meet and consult with legal counsel prior to answering any questions.

Important: If you are on the side of the road or in the Breath Test Room, the officer does not have to bring your lawyer to you before reading you the implied consent rights and offering the field sobriety and breath tests to you.

Speak with a South Carolina DUI Attorney Today

If you say the wrong thing in response to police questioning, you can potentially make an already bad situation much worse. Your safest bet is to have a criminal defense lawyer by your side every step of the way.

You should feel free to contact a South Carolina DUI lawyer at any time, via telephone or email, for a free initial consultation.