In South Carolina, a DUI conviction can have severe consequences. In fact, even if you are not convicted, you can still lose your license temporarily if you fail to protect it at an administrative hearing. With the potential penalties for a DUI conviction in South Carolina including fines and jail time for a first-time offense, you need to take your situation very seriously, and this means knowing how to avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your defense.
At this point, we will assume that you are at home after your DUI arrest, the arresting officer confiscated your driver’s license, and you received a summons for a bench trial in North Charleston Municipal Court. Here are ten mistakes you need to avoid in order to protect your license and give yourself the best chance of securing a favorable verdict at trial:
Mistake #1: Failing to Request an Administrative Law Hearing
In order to restore your driving privileges, you must request an Administrative Law Hearing before the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. The cost to submit a request is $200, and you must submit your request within 30 days of your arrest. Requesting an Administrative Law Hearing is the only way to get your license back while your DUI trial date is pending, and it is also the only way to obtain a restricted route license if you are not eligible to have your driving privileges fully restored.
Mistake #2: Driving on a Suspended License
While your DUI case is pending, you do not want to get arrested for driving on a suspended license. In court, one of the best ways to mitigate the consequences of a DUI is to convince the judge that you made a one-time mistake and that you are committed to complying with the law going forward. Plus, driving on a suspended license after a DUI is itself a punishable offense that carries 10 to 30 days in jail for a first-time offense.
Mistake #3: Getting Arrested for Another DUI
Likewise, you do not want to get arrested for another DUI. Not only will this harm your chances of securing a lighter sentence in your current DUI case, but it will also expose you to substantial penalties as a repeat offender. In South Carolina, the potential penalties for a second-time DUI include five days to one year in jail and up to $6,500 in fines.
Mistake #4: Assuming Everything Will Be Fine
Far too many people make the mistake of assuming that everything will be fine. They assume that the arresting officer won’t show up in court, or that they will get off based on some sort of technicality. While these are possible outcomes, if you do nothing, the far more likely result is that you will get convicted in court. The judge will sentence you, and you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.
Mistake #5: Assuming You Will Be Convicted
It is also a mistake to assume that there is nothing you can do to avoid a conviction. There are several potential defenses to DUI charges in South Carolina; and, even if you cannot avoid a conviction entirely, there may be ways you can convince the judge to impose a lenient sentence. If you are facing a DUI charge in North Charleston, you have a lot at stake, and you need to defend yourself by all means available.
Mistake #6: Failing to Request Discovery
During your DUI case, you have the right to request “discovery” from the prosecutor’s office. This means that you are entitled to see the evidence the prosecutors intend to use against you in court. From DataMaster (the breathalyzer device used in South Carolina) test results to dash-camera footage, knowing what evidence is out there is crucial to building an effective defense.
Mistake #7: Missing a Court Date
During your DUI case, you will have at least two court dates: (i) your pre-case hearing, and (ii) your DUI trial. You need to make sure you know what these dates are, and you need to make arrangements in advance to be there on time with your attorney.
Mistake #8:Overlooking any Potential Defenses
As we mentioned, there are numerous potential defenses to DUI charges in South Carolina. While this includes defenses based on the evidence (or lack of evidence), it includes various other types of defenses as well. When facing a DUI charge in North Charleston Municipal Court, you need to make sure you are fully aware of all of the defenses you have available.
Mistake #9: Ignoring the Potential Consequences
Many people fail to take their DUI cases seriously because they do not understand the potential consequences involved. In South Carolina, jail time is a real possibility, and the fines and court costs can be substantial. You can also lose your driver’s license for an extended period of time. In addition to these (and other) court-imposed penalties, a DUI conviction can also make it difficult to get into school, find housing, and get (or keep) a good-paying job.
Mistake #10: Trying to Handle Your DUI Case on Your Own
With all of these considerations in mind, when facing a DUI charge, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try to handle your case on your own. The prosecutors in North Charleston are very good at what they do, and they aggressively pursue harsh penalties in DUI cases. In order to protect yourself, you need experience on your side, and you need to work with a defense attorney who has a history of successfully representing clients in DUI cases in North Charleston Municipal Court.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a North Charleston, SC DUI Defense Lawyer
Rad Deaton is a criminal defense lawyer who has well over a decade of experience handling DUI cases in North Charleston. To speak with Mr. Deaton in confidence, call us at 843-225-5723 or tell us how to reach you online today.