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Is there hope if charged with felony DUI and leaving the scene?

Is there hope if charged with felony DUI and leaving the scene?

One of the worst combination of charges you can face is a felony DUI with death along with a leaving the scene of an accident. Why? Because the leaving the scene charge carries the same possible sentence as the DUI. Up to 25 years. With both charges, you’re facing up to 50 years.

There can be many defenses to a felony DUI charge. Were you impaired? Did the police properly document their investigation? Were the required procedures followed for the blood draw? Who was to blame for the accident?

Leaving the scene however is a very different offense. You do not have to be responsible for causing the accident. It can even be the other driver’s fault. The law requires that:

•          Every driver involved in an accident

•          Resulting in injury or death

•          Shall stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible

•          Shall return and in “every event” shall remain until he has identified himself and rendered aid

S.C. Code § 56-5-1210

This means that if you are involved with an accident where someone dies (either on the scene, or later from their injuries), you can face the exact same prison time as if you driving drunk were at-fault.

While a leaving the scene charge may appear at first to be “open and shut”, there are several possible defenses. For example:

•          You weren’t the driver

•          You didn’t travel far enough or long enough to leave the scene

•          You had a head injury or were otherwise disoriented from the collision

•          You left to get help

•          You didn’t know you struck a pedestrian\bicyclist\motorcyclist\automobile

There isn’t any exact definition in the law for leaving the scene either. Some situations it’s clear (such as is when someone drives home and tries to hide their damaged vehicle). But what about a situation when someone drives a short distance, and then on their own pull over and calls 911 to report the accident?  Of they don’t have a working phone so they drive off looking for a store or a house to call for help from?

Is there any hope?

Even though these are very serious charges, there can still be hope for a better outcome. Charges can be dismissed or reduced. If there are legal defenses to one of the charges it can substantially reduce the sentence.

There are also many opportunities for defense experts in accident reconstructionist, forensic medicine, or blood testing, to assist in challenging the prosecution narrative in these cases. Defendants can also benefit themselves by promptly enrolling in counseling as soon as possible.


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