If you have been pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina, the process of protecting yourself begins now. While it may ultimately take several months to resolve your DUI case, there are steps you need to take immediately in order to protect your driving privileges and give yourself the best chance of avoiding a conviction and a permanent criminal record.
If the Arresting Officer Confiscated Your License or Your Driving Privileges Were Automatically Suspended…
There are a few circumstances in which a DUI traffic stop will result in the immediate loss of your driving privileges. This can occur if the arresting officer confiscates your license or if the circumstances of your arrest call for an automatic suspension. Under South Carolina law, your license will be automatically suspended if:
- You refused to take the DataMaster, or breathalyzer, test (and “implied consent”) violation;
- You took the DataMaster test but your consent was still recorded as a refusal (for example, if you could not blow hard enough to register a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading); or,
- You took the DataMaster test and registered a BAC of greater than 0.15 percent.
Why is this important to your DUI case? Because, if your license was suspended at the time of your arrest, you will need to request an administrative hearing in order to restore your driving privileges. This is a separate legal procedure that happens before your DUI trial.
In order to restore your driving privileges pending the outcome of your DUI case, you must request an Administrative Law Hearing within 30 calendar days of your arrest. You must submit the request, along with the $200 filing fee, to the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. Within a couple of weeks of submitting your request, you should receive two letters in the mail: One will notify you of the date of your hearing, and the other will inform you of whether you are eligible to obtain a Temporary Alcohol License (TAL) prior to your hearing (subject to payment of an additional $100 fee). When your hearing date comes, you or your attorney will need to appear, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) will determine whether:
- There was probable cause for your arrest; and,
- The arresting officer adequately informed you of your legal rights.
If the ALJ rules in your favor on either of these issues, then your driving privileges will be restored pending your court date. If the ALJ rules against you, then you will need to apply for a restricted route license, pay another $100 fee, and complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) in order to obtain the right to drive to and from work.
Fighting Your DUI Charge in South Carolina Court
At this point, you need to focus your efforts on doing everything possible to avoid a conviction in court. First, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of the charges against you. For example, were you solely charged with DUI, or were you also charged with an implied consent violation? In order to avoid a long-term driver’s license suspension, fines, jail time, and other penalties, you need to effectively fight every charge that is on the table.
At the time you were charged, you should have received a court date for a “bench trial.” Your court date is probably no more than a few weeks away. If you want your case to be heard by a jury instead of a judge (which may be more desirable), you must submit a filing to the court before your scheduled court date arrives. If you do not request a jury trial, you must appear at the scheduled bench trial. Furthermore, even if you request a jury trial but you do not receive written notice that your original trial date has been canceled, then you still must go before the judge on your scheduled court date.
If you have hired a DUI defense attorney, your attorney will submit the necessary filings for you, and your attorney will also take various other steps at this stage to build your defense. These steps may include:
- Submitting discovery requests in order to obtain any relevant materials that are in the state’s possession. Depending on the circumstances of your case, these may include video recordings of your traffic stop, an incident report, your field sobriety test results, DataMaster maintenance and calibration records, and various other documents.
- Working with you to identify all potential defenses. There are numerous potential defenses to DUI charges in South Carolina, and the specific defenses that you have available will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of your case.
- Attending a pre-case hearing at which your attorney will attempt to negotiate a reduction in your charge, an agreed sentence, or potentially dismissal of your DUI. Your attorney should not agree to any deal unless you approve.
- Preparing your case for trial if the prosecutor’s office will not agree to an acceptable deal. If it is in your best interests to go to trial, your attorney will prepare opening and closing statements, evidence to present to the jury, and questions to ask the arresting officer on the witness stand. While the prosecutor’s office has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, avoiding a conviction at trial can be an uphill battle, and you need to fell confident that your attorney is up to the task.
While your attorney will handle much of the process for you, it is important that you remain actively involved in your DUI case. There may be steps you can take to minimize your risk of a substantial sentence (such as attending substance abuse counseling), and you need to be extremely careful not to get arrested again while your case is pending. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself is to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
Schedule a Free Initial DUI Consultation in North Charleston, SC
If you have been arrested for DUI in the North Charleston area, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free initial consultation. To speak with DUI defense attorney Rad Deaton about your case in confidence, call 843-225-5723 or inquire online today.