Lexington Traffic Offense Attorney
Fighting Your Traffic Ticket in Lexington, SC
Many people don't realize it, but traffic offenses are considered criminal violations under South Carolina Law. This means that traffic offenses must follow the same procedural law as other criminal violations, and gives those charged with a traffic offense many important rights. For example, anyone who receives a traffic ticket in South Carolina is entitled to the following:
- To receive a trial by jury
- To be presumed innocent until the State proves you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
- Discovery motions compelling the State to provide materials to you pertinent to your defense (to include any audio / video footage and radar information)
As a Lexington criminal defense attorney, James Snell is able to bring his overall knowledge and experience in criminal trial practice to work defending those who received a traffic ticket in South Carolina. Many of Mr. Snell's traffic law clients hold a commercial driver's license (CDL), or otherwise depend on their license for their job. Nearly all are concerned about insurance rates,
license points and the other ramifications that may come with a traffic charge. In addition to routine traffic tickets, Mr. Snell also represents those charged with major traffic offenses, including reckless driving, failure to stop for a blue light, hit and run, and reckless homicide.
About Speeding Tickets in South Carolina
South Carolina has three types of speeding tickets with fines ranging from $81.50 to $440 and carrying 2 to 6 points. All convictions for speeding violations must carry points according to the violation. Speeding is considered a strict liability offense under South Carolina law, meaning that even if the speeding was only inadvertent, accidental, or unintentional, you may still be convicted.
The officer who writes the ticket will ordinarily have sole and exclusive authority to reduce or dismiss the charge. If you have received a Speeding Ticket, an attorney from our firm is either available to attempt to negotiate a resolution directly with the officer, or to actively contest the charge in court. If you decide to challenge the ticket in court you may have certain defenses, including:
- The officer may not have been properly trained to operate the laser / radar equipment used
- The laser / radar equipment may not have the proper certifications, or may not be in proper working order
- The officer may have clocked the wrong car (and given you a ticket deserved by another driver)
- The sign alerting you to a reduction in the speed limit may be missing or damaged
Tickets for Causing Car Accidents
If you have received a traffic ticket as a result of your involvement in an automobile accident, there are several important things for you to know. First, in most instances the officer who wrote you the ticket probably did not actually observe the accident, and will be unable to testify in court as to what caused the accident. Under South Carolina law, an officer is not to presume that a violation of the law occurred simply because there was an accident, and police officers and highway patrolmen are not qualified to give opinion testimony in court as to who they believe caused an accident. Most tickets received as a result of an accident cannot be reduced and instead must be contested in court. Many times these charges may be dismissed when a trial is requested and discovery requested from the officer due to the lack of cooperation by the other driver.
South Carolina License Point Schedule
Most South Carolina traffic violations carry with them a point penalty. These points are frequently forwarded onto to visiting motorist's home states. When too many points have been assessed to your license it will be suspended. Following is the listing of common point violations according to the related offense:
- Reckless driving
- Passing stopped school bus
- Driving 25 mph or more over the posted speed limit
- Driving 10 mph or more (but less than 25 mph) over the posted speed limits
- Disobedience of any traffic control device (red light, stop sign, etc.)
- Disobedience to officer directing traffic
- Failure to yield right of way
- Driving on wrong side of the road
- Passing unlawfully
- Turning unlawfully
- Driving through or within a safety zone
- Failing to give a proper signal
- Following too closely
- Operating with improper brakes
- Operating with improper lights
- Shifting lanes without safety precaution
- Failing to dim lights
- Operating a vehicle in an unsafe condition
- Driving in improper lane
- Improper dangerous parking
- Improper backing
Major Traffic Offenses
Driving Under Suspension
Driving under suspension, or DUS, is the offense for operating a motor vehicle when your license has been suspended. Under S.C. Code §56-1-460 the penalties are as follows:
- For a first offense, a fine and / or imprisonment of up to 30 days
- For a second offense, a fine and / or imprisonment of up to 60 days
- For a third offense, a fine and imprisonment of 90 days to 6 months (no part of the sentence can be suspended meaning you must serve time if convicted)
If your license has been suspended as a result of a DUI conviction, the penalties are steeper:
- For a first offense, a fine and / or imprisonment of 10 to 30 days
- For a second offense, a fine and / or imprisonment of 60 days to 6 months
- For a third offense, a fine and imprisonment of six months to three years (no part of the sentence can be suspended meaning you must serve time if convicted).
In addition to the penalties described above, a conviction for driving under suspension will also re-suspend your license and may cause you to be declared a habitual offender, thereby permanently revoking your privilege to lawfully operate a motor vehicle.
S.C. Code §56-5-2920
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime in South Carolina, and unlike other traffic offenses it carries a possibility of up to 30 days in jail. It will result in an automatic suspension of a commercial driver's license for a first offense, and a second or subsequent offense will suspend a regular driver's license. The State must show that the motorist was operating a motor vehicle, with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
Failure to Stop for Blue Light
S.C. Code §56-5-750
If you fail to timely stop for a law enforcement officer in South Carolina you could face the serious charge of failure to stop for blue light. Many times these offenses come not as a result of a failure to stop, but just when and how the officer believes you should. Frequently there may be a genuine question of whether or not a crime occurred at all.
The penalties for failure to stop for blue light are as follows:
- If no death or serious injury, imprisonment of 90 days to 3 years
- If serious injury, imprisonment of up to 10 years
- If death results, imprisonment of up to 25 years
The penalties are all enhanced for those with a prior conviction for this offense, and all offenders will face a mandatory license suspension.
Leaving the scene of an accident (Hit & Run)
S.C. Code §56-5-1210
Reckless driving is either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the exact nature of the charge. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions by the solicitor's office. The penalties are as follows:
- If no death or serious injury, imprisonment of 30 days to 1 year
- If serious injury, imprisonment of 30 days to 10 years
- If death results, imprisonment of 1 year to 25 years
S.C. Code §56-5-2910
Reckless homicide is an offense wherein reckless driving resulted in the death of another. It is a felony that carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison. It is prosecuted in the court of general sessions by the solicitor's office. Occasions that have resulted in reckless homicide charges and convictions include:
- Drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel
- Failure to slow down in a construction zone
- Erratic or aggressive driving
- Excessive speed or racing
- Suspected DUI cases without sufficient evidence to prosecuted as a felony DUI
Not all traffic deaths that result from a fault-based accident should result in a charge or conviction for reckless homicide. The prosecution must prove that the defendant's driving rose to the same standard as set forth in the reckless driving statute as set forth above.
South Carolina License Reinstatement
If your license has been permanently revoked based on a finding classifying you as a habitual offender, the Law Office of James Snell may be able to assist you in having your license reinstated. The procedure involves filing a civil action in court with notice and service upon the county solicitor's office. The court will hold a hearing and take live testimony to determine if you qualify for a reinstatement. At a minimum you should have completed a qualifying alcohol counseling program and have several years with no driving under suspension violations, or other criminal charges.
Habitual Offender of Motor Vehicle Code
S.C. Code §56-1-1020
Habitual offender violations are prosecuted as felonies and carry a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment. To be convicted, the State must establish that the driver's license was previously permanently revoked as a habitual offender and subsequently the defendant did operate a motor vehicle upon the public roads of the state. This is prosecuted in the court of general sessions by the solicitor's office. Although this is a standalone offense it is frequently accompanied by driving under suspension, failure to stop for a blue light, driving under the influence, or other serious moving violations.
Open Container of Beer of Wine in Motor Vehicle
S.C. Code §61-4-110
South Carolina actually has two open-container laws, one for beer and wine and one for liquor. To be charged, the beer or wine must contain one-half of one percent or more of alcohol. Some products sold as "non-alcoholic" actually contain more than this amount. This offense is prosecuted in the magistrate or municipal court, usually by the arresting officer. The penalty includes a fine of up to $100 plus court costs and / or up to 30 days in jail.
Open Container of Liquor / ABC Violation
S.C. Code §61-6-4020
This statute regulates the transportation of open liquor containers in a motor vehicle. Violations are prosecuted in the magistrate or municipal court, usually by the arresting officer. The penalty includes a fine of up to $100 plus court costs and / or up to 30 days in jail.