Lexington DUI Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI, you will need a Lexington criminal attorney to work to resolve your case in the most favorable manner possible. At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, our Lexington DUI Attorney will investigate the facts of your arrest and the procedures used by law enforcement. We also represent individuals who are facing DUI allegations in Columbia, SC. Just because you were arrested for DUI does not mean that you must be convicted. If you are convicted, however, you will face high fines, a criminal conviction on your record, increased insurance rates and the possibility of a jail sentence. Hiring one of our lawyers will give you the best chance of a not-guilty verdict, dismissal, or other outcome more favorable than a DUI conviction.
The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC represents clients who have been charged with DUI or driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC). The information below will provide you with the important information you need to know if you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI. You should be aware that, depending on your charge, you may begin losing your legal right to fully challenge your case as early as ten days after your arrest. The following information is categorized and designed to educate potential clients about DUI charges and processes:
South Carolina DUI Penalties
The penalties for those convicted for first-time DUI in South Carolina are dependent on the blood alcohol content (BAC) that the police are able to establish in court. Typically, the police obtain the BAC level from the reading provided by the breathalyzer machine. It is an unfortunate, but a realistic truth, that ordinarily the only individuals in South Carolina fully prosecuted under our DUI law are the ones who tried to cooperate with the police.
South Carolina DUI Law is contained in S.C. Code §56-5-2930. For a BAC of <0.10, there is a fine of approximately $992 or imprisonment for no less than 48 hours or more than 30 days. If you had a recorded BAC of 0.10 - 0.16, your penalty will be a fine of approximately $1,227 or imprisonment for not less than 72 hours of more than 30 days. For a BAC of >0.16, a fine of approximately $2,480 or imprisonment for not less than 30 days or more than 90 days awaits.
The penalties continue to escalate for repeat offenders, and by the time individuals reach their fourth offense the maximum penalties include a mandatory three to seven year imprisonment. See DUI second, DUI third, and felony DUI. In addition to the criminal penalties, there are also the administrative penalties. These include mandatory license suspensions, high insurance rates and an expensive alcohol and drug education course. A DUI conviction will also suspend a commercial driver's license.
Administrative License Suspension in South Carolina
If you refused the police officer's request to submit to a breath sample or if you submitted and registered a 0.15 or higher, your license to drive in South Carolina will be suspended for a period of six months or longer. This is in addition to any suspension that you may incur as a result of your DUI charge. If you allow this suspension to stand, you will also be required to register and complete an alcohol course called ADSAP prior to ever regaining your license. This is regardless of if you are ever actually convicted of DUI. This is due to South Carolina's implied consent law.
To protect our client's rights, we file a request to challenge the implied consent suspension with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. Within seven to ten days of this request being received by the court, you may be eligible to receive a full, unrestricted license pending the outcome of your implied consent hearing. At this hearing the officer will have to provide legal proof to the hearing officer to have the suspension upheld. This cannot always be done, and if the suspension is rescinded you can continue to drive pending the outcome of your DUI case. If the suspension is reinstated for any reason you may be still be eligible for a restricted license.
Effective DUI Defenses
A South Carolina DUI or DUAC charge is a serious criminal offense. With it come all the protections afforded under the law. Being arrested or charged does not mean that you are automatically convicted, and there are many available defenses to a DUI or DUAC charge. Possible defenses include:
- That the police officer did not have a legally justifiable reason for stopping you
- That the police established an illegal roadblock before pulling you over
- That there are technical problems with the breathalyzer or DataMaster DMT™ machine
- The records on the machines was not kept current
- You were not given Miranda rights as specifically required by the DUI law
- That there is insufficient evidence to show that you were materially and appreciably impaired
- That the police officer failed to follow required procedures for videotaping
- A lack of evidence that you were actually the driver or operator of a motor vehicle
Possible Companion Charges
If you have been charged with a DUI, there may be other charges that accompany your offense. There are several charges that may accompany a DUI and may be prosecuted at the same time. These may include:
- ABC violations
- Child endangerment
- Driving under suspension
- Gun charges
- Failure to stop for a blue light
- Hit and run
- Open container
- Resisting arrest
- Simple marijuana possession
- Taillight / taglight violations
If you have been charged with one of these criminal violations in conjunction with your DUI arrest it is even that much more important that you obtain the services of a DUI and criminal defense attorney you trust to work on your behalf. These companion charges may serve to substantially increase the prospective jail times and / or fines you face. Some may include an additional driver's license suspension period.
South Carolina DUAC Law
South Carolina also has a special charge similar to DUI called driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC). The DUAC law is codified in S.C. Code §56-5-2933. It is different from the DUI statute in that it allows for an individual to be convicted simply based on having a BAC over 0.08. There is a tiered system of penalties for those with a higher BAC like in DUI cases. There are specific additional requirements that must be established in a DUAC case, the statute requires specifically that the state must prove:
- Whether or not the defendant was lawfully arrested
- The time period between arrest and the breath testing
- Whether or not the defendant was given specific rights
- Whether or not the defendant voluntarily submitted to a breath test
- Whether or not the arresting officer is actually qualified to make an arrest
- What the defendant's BAC level is
- Whether the breath tests were administered and recorded
- Whether the breath site equipment was in proper working order
There are many additional requirements that must be established and this statute creates additional defenses not available in all DUI cases. Because of the highly technical nature of this statute, it is used less frequently than the standard South Carolina DUI charge. All defendants charged with DUAC are entitled to a trial and the same right to challenge their arrest that they would if they were charged with DUI.
Your Rights When Stopped for Suspicion of DUI or DUAC
When you are stopped for suspicion of DUI in South Carolina you have several rights guaranteed under our justice system. You have the right to remain silent. This includes answer questions asked of you by law enforcement concerning your travel destination and your consumption of alcohol. You are also entitled to the right to refrain from participating in field sobriety tests (FST). This includes the one-legged stand, walk and turn or alphabet recitation. It also includes the right to refrain from participating in breathalyzer testing.
Felony DUI in Lexington, SC
Anyone convicted of Felony DUI involving death faces anywhere from 1 to 25 years in prison. A conviction of felony DUI involving great bodily injury carries a sentence of 30 days up to 15 years. South Carolina felony DUI cases are prosecuted in the court of general sessions. The approach to representing a client charged with a felony DUI is drastically different than for representing a client with a misdemeanor DUI charge. It is imperative that a fully comprehensive defense strategy be designed and implemented as soon as possible after an arrest in order to provide for the best possible outcome.
While some DUI cases may be classified as difficult or tough very few cases are impossible to defend. At the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, our Lexington criminal lawyers are not afraid to take on difficult cases. There are several reasons why there may be hope for any DUI case. DUI is one of the few criminal charges in South Carolina that have technical defenses. If the arresting officer fails to follow required procedure, or to maintain evidence in accordance with the law, the case against you may be dismissed. In most cases it is not possible to know if the officer complied with these procedures at the time of the arrest.
Need an experienced DUI lawyer in Lexington, South Carolina? The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC is here to help. Call today to schedule your free initial consultation!