When you are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, getting your charge dismissed is the best-case scenario. If your charge gets dismissed, this means your case is over (assuming you aren’t facing any additional charges, like a DUI refusal), and you can get back to your normal life.
But, getting your DUI dismissed in South Carolina is easier said than done. In areas like North Charleston where the courts handle a large number of DUI cases, prosecutors are very good at what they do. They know how to use the evidence that police officers provide them, and they know exactly what it takes to secure a conviction in court.
Even so, it is possible to get a DUI charge dismissed in some cases.
Understanding your chances of dismissal starts with understanding the facts of your case. In DUI cases, the facts matter immensely. While this includes the fact that you were (or weren’t) driving drunk, other facts will often matter even more. In fact, many DUI dismissals result not from evidence of innocence, but from pointing out other problems with the prosecution’s case.
Important Considerations for Getting a DUI Charge Dismissed in South Carolina
So, if you are facing a DUI charge, what do you need to know about getting your charge dismissed? Here are five important considerations:
1. It Is Possible to Get a DUI Charge Dismissed Even if You Were Driving Drunk
The first thing to know is that it is possible to get a DUI charge dismissed (in some cases) even if you were driving drunk. In the South Carolina criminal justice system, there are three main ways to avoid a conviction: (i) you can disprove the prosecution’s case (i.e., you can prove your innocence); (ii) you can show that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and, (iii) you can fight to keep the prosecution’s evidence out of court.
Any one of these is enough to avoid a conviction. So, even if you were driving drunk, if prosecutors do not have enough evidence to prove your guilt, you are entitled to walk free. Likewise, if you have grounds to keep the prosecution’s evidence out of court (read more on this below), then prosecutors may not have a way to convict you.
2. Challenging Your Breath Test Result Isn’t Necessarily Enough
Many people assume that successfully challenging their breath test results will be enough to secure a dismissal in their DUI case. But, this is not necessarily true.
In South Carolina, prosecutors have two ways to prove that you were driving drunk. They can use your breath test result (your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading) or they can prove that your “faculties to drive a motor vehicle [were] materially and appreciably impaired.” So, even if your BAC reading is unreliable, if the police collected other evidence of impairment (i.e., if you took the field sobriety tests or they have footage of you driving erratically), prosecutors may still be able to secure a conviction.
3. Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence of Impairment Isn’t Necessarily Enough
Likewise, even if your driving faculties were not impaired, you can still face a DUI conviction based solely on your BAC. In South Carolina, this is known as driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), and it carries the same penalties as driving while impaired.
This means that if you are going to fight for a dismissal by challenging the prosecution’s evidence—instead of challenging the admissibility of the prosecution’s evidence—you need to be able to challenge your BAC reading and any other evidence of impairment. This is critical to keep in mind. Far too many people make the mistake of assuming they can avoid a conviction because they didn’t take the breath test or they were still able to drive safely.
4. Police Mistakes Could Warrant Dismissal
Another option for getting your DUI charge dismissed in South Carolina is to show that the police made mistakes during your traffic stop or arrest. If these mistakes amount to a violation of your constitutional rights, then they may provide grounds for a motion to keep the prosecution’s evidence out of court.
Even if prosecutors have evidence that you were drunk behind the wheel, if they can’t use this evidence, they can’t win a guilty verdict in court. As a result, challenging the admissibility of the evidence against you can be a highly effective defense strategy even if you were over the legal limit or impaired (or both) at the time of your arrest.
What police mistakes can warrant dismissal of a DUI charge in South Carolina? Depending on the circumstances involved, some examples of potential grounds for filing a motion to suppress the prosecution’s evidence include:
- Conducting a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion
- Arresting you without probable cause
- Denying your right to counsel
- Failing to read the Miranda warning
- Improperly administering the breath test or field sobriety tests
5. Prosecutorial Mistakes Could Also Warrant Dismissal
Prosecutorial mistakes can also warrant dismissal of a DUI charge in some cases. For example, if prosecutors withhold key evidence, if they unreasonably delay your trial, if they engage in discriminatory jury selection, or if they do anything else that interferes with your constitutional rights, these are all issues that could provide grounds for seeking a dismissal prior to trial.
What if You Can’t Get Your DUI Charge Dismissed?
While fighting for dismissal is possible in some cases, in some cases it is not. So, what are your options if you can’t get your DUI charge dismissed?
Even in this scenario, you have options for avoiding a guilty verdict and sentencing in court. For example, you may be eligible for South Carolina’s Alcohol Education Program (AEP), or your defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal. Learn more: Should I Accept a Plea Deal in My South Carolina Criminal Case?
Contact Us for a Free Consultation About Your DUI Case in North Charleston
If you are facing a DUI charge in North Charleston, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To discuss your case with defense lawyer Rad S. Deaton, call 843-225-5723 or request a free consultation online now.