DUI Lawyer in Piedmont, SC
Drinking and driving, or driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of South Carolina is not just against the law, it is dangerous and places yourself and everyone on the road around you at serious risk. It carries harsh penalties, including driver’s license suspension, fines, and the possibility of jail time. Drinking and driving is not something anyone should ever do, but statistics show that it is a decision that is all too easy to make, especially given the tendency of alcohol to hinder judgment. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Piedmont, SC, contact a DUI defense lawyer right away to learn your rights, assert them, and work toward having the charges reduced or dismissed.
The DUI lawyers at Bateman Law Firm serving Piedmont, SC will examine your case, the charges against you, and determine the best legal course of action to apply to your unique situation.
The Laws Regarding DUI in South Carolina
In the state of South Carolina, it is against the law to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes not just cocktails, wine, and beer, but also illegal drugs and even prescription medications which have impairment effects. Legally, ‘impaired’ means any status in which your ability to operate a vehicle are materially and appreciably reduced. This could be drunk, high, drowsy, disoriented, or any other number of the effects of various drugs.
While there are tests in place to determine the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system, such as the breathalyzer test, determining impairment for other drugs, particularly for prescription medications, is more difficult and can be highly subjective.
In terms of alcohol, impairment is defined as when a person’s blood-alcohol concentration is at 0.08% or higher, as registered on a blood test or breath test like a breathalyzer. In South Carolina, there is a separate charge called Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration, abbreviated DUAC, which describes driving with a blood-alcohol concentration above the legal limit. There are cases when a driver may be charged with this instead of DUI, such as instances when a driver is able to otherwise demonstrate clarity of thought at the scene. For people under the age of 21, the legal limit is significantly reduced to 0.02%, and drivers holding a commercial driver’s license have a legal limit of 0.04%.
South Carolina in recent years has worked very hard to reduce the frequency of its DUIs, and as a result, the fatality rate from DUI-related vehicle accidents has seen a 40% drop – but on the other side of that coin, those with DUI charges face stricter penalties. Since the punishments are so severe, it is vital that you work with a DUI Lawyer in Piedmont, South Carolina to have these charges and sentences reduced as much as possible.
Penalties for DUI in South Carolina
For the first offender, a DUI conviction comes with a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for a period of at least six months. This decision may be contested in an administrative hearing, which must be requested by the defendant within 30 days of the suspension. In addition, first offenders who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test also face a mandatory six-month suspension. In some cases, the license may be reinstated upon completion of the Alcohol & Drug Safety Action Program, or ADSAP. Since the introduction of Emma’s Law, South Carolina DUI offenses come with the possibility of installing an ignition interlock device. This is mandatory for second and subsequent offenses, or for first offenses in which the BAC is at least 0.15%.
In addition to these administrative penalties, those convicted of a DUI can face jail time and fines. For a first offense, jail times range from a minimum of 48 hours up to a maximum of 90 days. Additional offenses carry longer terms, up to a maximum of 5 years in jail. In addition, first offenses come with a fine between $400 and $1,000, while additional offenses increase this amount to a maximum fine of $10,000. These fines, in addition, do not include additional costs incurred from participation in ADSAP programs and similar activities. Additional penalties include community service and, of course, the presence of a misdemeanor or felony DUI charge on your criminal record, which cannot be expunged.
Implied Consent for DUI Testing
According to South Carolina’s state code, anyone driving in South Carolina is presumed to have given what is called “implied consent” to a blood, breath, or another relevant test to determine their blood-alcohol concentration. This means that while you may refuse a test such as a breathalyzer, refusal will mean the loss of your driver’s license for six months and the prospect of having the refusal used against you in court when you have to mount your defense. This license suspension, as mentioned, may be contested by requesting a hearing within 30 days of the arrest.
Unlike a breath, blood, or urine test, the standard field sobriety test does not fall under the rules of implied consent, and may be refused by the driver without additional penalties – but, again, the refusal may be used against you in court. In either case, an experienced Piedmont DUI defense lawyer will be able to examine the facts of your case, your reasons for refusal, and mount the strongest, most aggressive possible defense.
Having a Suspended License Reinstated After DUI in South Carolina
The possible ways in which a driver’s license may be reinstated include the following:
- Taking and passing a driving knowledge and skills test.
- Completion of an ADSAP (Alcohol & Drug Safety Action Program)’
- Providing proof of SR-22 liability insurance.
An experienced Piedmont DUI defense attorney is sometimes able to reduce or eliminate charges by way of discrediting these tests. An improperly administered field sobriety test, a questionable breathalyzer test, or other such uncertainty can cast the charges in doubt, and may lead to a plea bargain to reduce charges or sentences, or could lead to a case being dismissed entirely.
Working with Your Piedmont, SC DUI Defense Attorney
Together with your DUI lawyer in Piedmont, South Carolina, you will assert and fight for your own rights. Often, when arrested, people are unaware of just what rights they have, and it is crucial when moving forward to mount a defense for charges like these to evaluate whether your rights were violated in any way. Your DUI lawyer in Piedmont will carefully evaluate all the legal options available to you before suggesting a defense strategy or accepting any kind of deal or plea bargain. Your attorney is there to advocate for you, ensure that your rights are protected, and help you get the best possible outcome. Even if you are familiar with the law, don’t let a DUI affect your future – let an experienced DUI lawyer help.
Another way your lawyer may seek to defend your rights is to question the arresting officer’s reasons for pulling you over. Though there are many valid reasons for a traffic stop, including speeding, texting, or running a stop sign, simple suspicion of impaired driving is not sufficient. If you believe that an officer pulled you over because of this, and for no other reason, we would suggest consulting a Piedmont DUI lawyer before submitting to any police questioning.
A police officer is only allowed to make a traffic stop when there is a reason to suspect criminal activity or a traffic violation. These are called pretextual stops, and as long as the reasons are valid, they are legal and constitutional. DUI checkpoints, also known as roadblocks, are also legal and constitutional under state and federal law.
If, after an officer pulls you over, that officer makes the determination that you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then you will most likely be arrested. However, you still have rights which are in full force. You should be informed of your Miranda rights at this time (“You have the right to remain silent…”), and when it comes to being questioned by the police, we recommend that you exercise those rights. Simply inform the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent, and will answer no questions without an attorney present. Be polite, but be firm.
If you have been charged with a DUI in Piedmont, SC, it is imperative that you move forward with legal representation. Contact the Bateman Law Firm and let us help you get the best possible outcome for your case today.
What Happens Immediately Following an Arrest for DUI in South Carolina?
DUI offenses in South Carolina are arrestable, and if you are arrested for driving under the influence, you will most likely be placed in handcuffs and led to the back seat of a squad car. Then you will be processed and “booked” according to the protocols of your jurisdiction or county. In general, the steps for a DUI arrest go something like this:
- Booking (the basic intake procedure at the jail)
- Mugshot photography
- Breathalyzer or another blood-alcohol concentration test
Following your arrest, within 24 hours you will appear at a bond hearing. At this hearing, a judge will determine the amount of bond to set for your release from jail. You are allowed, and we would recommend, to have a Piedmont DUI lawyer present during this hearing, and during any and all police questioning.
Meeting with a DUI Defense Lawyer in Piedmont, SC
In the event that a police officer asks you questions, whether during the traffic stop itself or after an arrest has been made, you have the right to politely refuse to answer any questions without an attorney present.
The arresting officer also needs to allow a reasonable amount of time for you to consult with your attorney before you face any questioning. In the event that you are still on the side of the road or at a breath test facility, the officer does not need to bring your lawyer to you in order to ask you to submit to the test. The officer will read your implied consent rights to you and will offer the test. Remember, you may decline, but you will have to defend this decision later and will have to fight to have your driver’s license reinstated, as refusal carries a mandatory 6-month suspension.
Determining If Your DUI Arrest in South Carolina was Legal
While preparing to defend you against your DUI charge, your DUI lawyer in Piedmont, South Carolina will want to address some common concerns about the legality of your arrest:
- The arresting officer’s video recording must be running the moment the officer activates the blue lights. The only way an arrest is admissible without a video of the entire event is with a signed affidavit from the officer stating that it was physically impossible to videotape the activity.
- The officer should read the implied consent notice before administering the breathalyzer test. This states the consequences of refusing to comply with such a test.
- The officer should correctly administer any field sobriety tests.
- The officer must have had a legitimate reason to pull you over.
- The office should make sure you were properly informed of and understood your Miranda rights.
If any of these conditions are not satisfied, your arrest may not have been legal and can be contested.
A DUI conviction is a serious offense that not only carries harsh penalties in the state of South Carolina, but it represents a criminal charge on your record for the rest of your life. It can and will impact your future employment potential, your insurance rates, and your reputation in your community and among your peers. This charge is a serious offense, but you do not have to lie down and accept it.
Consult with a South Carolina DUI Lawyer Today
Even if you blow higher than a 0.08% on a breathalyzer test, this does not make you automatically guilty of DUI. By working with a DUI lawyer in Piedmont, South Carolina, you can work to have these charges reduced, the penalties mitigated, and, in some situations, not face any charges at all. However, it is imperative that you do not wait until your rights have been jeopardized to contact a DUI attorney in Piedmont. We know the law and we will fight for you every day. Contact the Bateman Law Firm today and let us examine the evidence in your DUI case.