DUI Defense Lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina
In the state of South Carolina, driving a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in severe penalties under the state’s DUI and DUAC laws. If you have been charged with DUI in Charleston, SC, you should contact a DUI lawyer right away. Certain South Carolina statutes set the limits for legal blood alcohol concentrations, the rules that apply to tests administered, and the penalties involved for using a vehicle in these circumstances. The penalties for DUI in Charleston, South Carolina, are tough, but with the help of a DUI attorney, you may be able to see those penalties reduced.
The Changing Laws and Your DUI Lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina
Unfortunately, the state of South Carolina has a history of having a lot of drunk driving accidents, and lawmakers in the state are constantly working to reduce the number of DUI offenders on the roads near Charleston. Recent changes to DUI law in South Carolina like Emma’s Law, which imposes a mandatory ignition interlock device on anyone who tests higher than a 0.15 on a Breathalyzer test, hope to reduce these numbers.
The other side of this coin for those charged with DUI is that lawmakers taking a tougher stance on DUI offenses means that the penalties for DUI in Charleston, South Carolina are harsh. However, with the help of an experienced DUI Lawyer in Charleston, these harsh penalties could be reduced, the charges against you lessened or even dismissed entirely. As any DUI attorney can tell you, every DUI case is unique, so in order to learn the best options available to you, it is necessary to consult with a drunk driving lawyer with experience in Charleston, SC DUI cases. Our DUI lawyers understand the new changes in South Carolina state law and are in the best possible position to increase your chances of a successful outcome for your case.
Implied Consent in South Carolina – Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
South Carolina state law says that someone who is under suspicion of driving under the influence gives “implied consent” to a breath or blood test to determine their BAC level. For this reason, anyone who refuses to take a breathalyzer test will have their license suspended for a period of six months (for a first offense). You do, however, have the right to refuse the breathalyzer test if you truly do not wish to take it and if you are willing to accept the consequences.
If you do take the breathalyzer test and the results show your BAC is above the legal limit, then you and your DUI lawyer may be able to challenge those results. The standard scale for BAC levels in the state of South Carolina is:
- At least 0.02 for drivers under 21
- At least 0.08 for drivers over 21
- At least 0.04 for commercial drivers
Penalties for DUI in Charleston, SC
Anyone convicted of a DUI in South Carolina, whether it is a first offense or subsequent conviction, faces some amount of jail time. First offenders have a minimum sentence of 48 hours up to a maximum of 90 days in jail. The penalty for a second offense ranges from a minimum of five days to three years. Third and subsequent offenses carry jail terms ranging from 60 days to five years. As you can see, penalties for DUI in South Carolina are quite harsh – another reason it is highly recommended to consult with a DUI lawyer in Charleston as soon as possible.
In addition to jail time, those convicted of DUI face fines which increase in severity for multiple offenses. First-time offenders will pay a fine of $400 – $1000, while the maximum fine for third and subsequent offenses is $10,000. DUI convictions in South Carolina also come with the possibility of license suspension from 6 months to two years or a permanent forfeiture after the fourth offense. Your DUI lawyer in Charleston can help you to reduce these fines and jail times.
For a first offender who tests above the legal limit, but blows below a critical value of 0.15, you may be able to serve your time, pay your fine, and go about your life. However, those who are second offenders or those who blow 0.15 or higher on a breathalyzer will need to install a mandatory ignition interlock device for a period of no less than six months. This is a relatively recent addition to South Carolina DUI law, known as Emma’s Law, after Emma Longstreet, a six-year-old girl, was killed by a drunk driver.
How Your DUI Lawyer Protects Your Rights in Charleston, SC
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, it may seem that all hope is lost. However, don’t despair – the first thing that you should do is speak to an experienced DUI attorney in Charleston, SC about your case. Your DUI lawyers will be able to advise you as to the best options available to you, including the potential for a plea bargain or reduced charges. If you believe that you have been falsely accused of DUI, the field sobriety test was not administered properly, or the breathalyzer test may have been wrong, you may be able to see your charges dismissed or you could prove your innocence in a trial. Drunk driving lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina will help you with any and all of these strategies.
If you have been accused of any crime, including the crime of DUI, it is important to remember that you have rights. If your DUI Lawyer can prove that the arresting officer violated your rights in any way, this can be very beneficial for your case. It is very common for South Carolina residents to lack a full understanding of their rights if they are arrested for DUI. As DUI lawyers serving Charleston, we’d like to take the opportunity to inform you of some of them now. Here are some important questions to remember regarding your rights during and following a DUI arrest.
- Did the arresting officer see you drive the car?
- What was the reason the officer pulled you over?
- Were there any other witnesses?
- Did the arresting officer administer a Breathalyzer test?
- Were you advised of your Miranda rights, and did you understand them?
Building a Strong Defense with Your DUI Lawyer in Charleston, SC
No matter what the circumstances of your arrest may be, whether you believe you are guilty or not, you need to know that there is always a strategy for defense which you and your Charleston, SC DUI attorney can use. Even if your case cannot be dismissed, and if a “not guilty” verdict seems unlikely, an aggressive defense strategy can still produce a positive result. In our experience as DUI lawyers in Charleston, many police officers do not follow proper procedures in their DUI arrests. Field sobriety tests are mishandled, vehicles are pulled over with no probable cause or traffic violation, breathalyzer tests are not administered properly, to name a few common examples.
Simply having a breathalyzer test which results in a BAC above the legal limit is not an admission of guilt, and it is not a reason to plead guilty to a DUI charge. In fact, doing this could be a mistake. Working with your drunk driving lawyer in Charleston, SC, you may be able to find sufficient evidence to suggest the breathalyzer test could be invalid. If this is the case, those test results may need to be excluded from your case.
Common Questions to DUI Attorneys in Charleston South Carolina
- What possible punishments may I face if I am convicted of DUI in Charleston?
- You could face suspension of your driver’s license, fines ranging from $400 up to $10,000, and jail time ranging from two days to five years. If it is your second offense or you blew at least 0.15 on the breathalyzer, you will need to purchase and install an ignition interlock device for at least six months. You may be asked to perform community service or attend a Safety Action Program.
- What is the legal definition of “impaired?”
- In the state of South Carolina, impairment is defined as any time a person’s ability to operate a vehicle is appreciably and materially hindered. It is a little subjective, and there is no definite way to measure impairment rather than through tangential measures like BAC.
- Will a breathalyzer test above the legal limit guarantee my conviction?
- Breathalyzer tests are submitted to show evidence of impairment and sometimes to show probable cause for a DUI arrest, but if any mistakes are made, or if the results can be questioned at all, the reliability of the test can be tainted in the eyes of the jury or judge.
- Can I refuse to take a sobriety test?
- Yes, you may refuse to take the field sobriety test.
- Can I refuse to take a breathalyzer test?
- Yes, but if you do, this will result in your license being suspended for at least six months.
- Isn’t fighting a DUI charge just my word against the arresting officer’s?
- Fighting a DUI Charge with DUI lawyers on your side is not your word against someone else’s. It is your evidence against the state’s evidence. In South Carolina, every aspect of a DUI arrest has to be documented on video. This video evidence will show exactly what transpired during the arrest. This evidence, along with other information, will add weight to your “word.”
- If I take a breathalyzer test, is there a video of it?
- If it is possible to record the breath test, it must be recorded. Just like the video from the scene of the arrest, this video may be used as evidence at your trial.
- What happens when someone under the age of 21 is arrested for DUI?
- The legal limit for DUI for drivers under 21 is significantly lower than the limit for someone older. A charge at this age will result in an automatic 3-month driver’s license suspension and potentially other penalties. Consult a DUI Lawyer to find out what specific penalties you may be facing.
- Can I be arrested for DUI on private property?
- The DUI statutes in South Carolina apply everywhere inside the state, including public roads, parking areas, and private property.
- Can I drive while my DUI case is pending?
- If your license is suspended, you should not be driving. It is possible to request a hearing within 30 days of your arrest to attempt to have your license reinstated temporarily during the period when your case is pending. If your license is not suspended, you may drive.
- SO I have to take the Alcohol & Drug Safety Action program?
- Yes, in South Carolina, anyone convicted of DUI must enroll in this substance abuse program.
Hiring a DUI Lawyer in Charleston, SC
The state of South Carolina is known for its beaches, the lovely low country, great golf courses, and, unfortunately, one of the highest frequencies of DUI offenses. Due to the recent passage of Emma’s Law, South Carolina is also known as one of the country’s toughest states on DUI offenders. As the saying goes, “He who chooses to represent himself has a fool for a client.” If you are facing DUI charges in Charleston, don’t try to beat the complex and tough South Carolina DUI laws on your own. Work with an experienced DUI lawyer.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Charleston, SC, don’t assume that you are automatically guilty, and don’t think that you can represent yourself. Contact an experienced DUI lawyer in Charleston, SC right away. Your DUI lawyer will be able to show you the potential defenses in your case, advise you as to the possibility of a plea bargain for lesser charges and a reduced sentence, or have those charges dismissed entirely.