Driving under the influence is, unfortunately, a crime commonly committed by people based on immaturity, ill-advised risk-taking or ignorance of the law and its consequences. In the state of South Carolina, licensed individuals over the age of 21 are legally permitted to drive unless their blood-alcohol level exceeds .08%; anything above that is considered driving under the influence. (For individuals under 21, their blood alcohol level cannot exceed .02%.) The likelihood of being pulled over for a DUI is significant, and the penalties are potentially great.
Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor in South Carolina and many other states. First-time offenders face a penalty of up to 90 days in prison, depending on the BAC at the time of the arrest. There are also potential fines of up to $1,000 and suspension of a driver’s license for six months. If the blood alcohol level at the time of the arrest exceeds .15, the driver is required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on their vehicle; this device prevents he or she from starting a vehicle until the driver blows into a device to prove he or she is not intoxicated.
The punishment for second- and third-time misdemeanor offenses are more severe.
Further, South Carolina does have felony DUI when certain criteria are met. A DUI becomes a felony where: (1) driving under the influence results in great bodily injury or death of another; (2) the driver violated one or more traffic offenses; and (3) the acts of the driver are the proximate cause of the great bodily injury or death.
Where a DUI results in serious bodily injury to another – meaning an injury that is life-threatening, causes permanent disfigurement or results in the loss of boldly or organ function – the offender will be imprisoned for a period no less than 30 days, but no more than 15 years; be fined no less than $5,000 but no more than $10,000; have their license suspended for the period of the prison sentence, plus 3 years; and require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device.
Where a DUI results in death, the offender will be imprisoned for a period no less than 1 year, but no more than 25 years; be fined no less than $10,000 but no more than $25,000; have their license suspended for the period of the prison sentence, plus 5 years; and require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device. The individual is ineligible for parole.
What to do if you are pulled over and arrested for DUI.
Often, individuals arrested for driving under the influence have never been in trouble with the law. The first and most important action in mounting a defense against a DUI charge is to contact a South Carolina DUI attorney. Often, DUI convictions turn on breath and blood testing; an experienced DUI defense lawyer in South Carolina will understand the complexities and downfalls of these tests to mount an adequate defense.
When an individual is pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence, the police officer will often request that the driver consent to field sobriety tests. If the driver is deemed to have failed, the officer will request that the driver submit to a breathalyzer. While a driver can refuse to submit to both field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer, the refusal results in an immediate 6 month license suspension.
Once charged, an individual will likely spend a night in jail before being released on bond the next day. This is the time to call a South Carolina criminal defense attorney. The defendant in DUI cases has the right to choose how the case proceeds thereafter; the options are (1) to plead guilty; (2) request a bench trial; or (3) request a trial by jury. There is a possibility that a case gets dismissed or settled along the process, especially when attorneys are involved.
A DUI is not your basic traffic offense; you cannot simply pay a ticket and leave. It is the job of a South Carolina DUI lawyer to undermine the accuracy of any sobriety test that the accused underwent. Because of the harsh penalties that can be imposed by a DUI conviction, hiring an attorney is imperative to the case.
Contact Harris & Huge today for legal representation by the top DUI defense firm in Charleston.