Driving after drinking alcoholic beverages is not something that anyone should ever do. However, mistakes can be made even by good people, and for those who have made this mistake, sometimes it comes with the possibility of jail time, steep fines, and the reality of a DUI conviction on your criminal record.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Pickens County, South Carolina, it is important for you to begin working with a Pickens County DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
Changes to South Carolina’s DUI Laws
Lawmakers in the state of South Carolina are always working to reduce the frequency of DUIs that happen inside the state. Over the last decade, the rate of fatalities due to DUI offenders have seen reductions by around 40% due to the proactive legislative approach. Unsurprisingly, the other side of this coin is that the penalties for DUI, even for first offenders, can be quite harsh in South Carolina.
However, with the help of an experienced DUI lawyer in Pickens County, South Carolina, these penalties and charges can be reduced or dismissed entirely. Every DUI case is unique, so to learn your best options, it is important that you do not attempt to represent yourself.
A Pickens County DUI lawyer understands the complexities of state law around DUI offenses and is in the best position to consider the evidence in your case and determine the best possible options.
Your Rights and Your DUI Defense Case in Pickens County, SC
If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence, all is not lost. The first thing you should do is contact legal counsel by reaching out to a DUI lawyer at the Bateman Law Firm. Your attorney will advise you as to your options, and whether there is a possibility of a plea bargain or reduced charges in your case.
On the other hand, if you believe you have been falsely accused, if a field sobriety test was improperly administered or resulted in a false accusation, or if a breathalyzer test may have been faulty due to poor maintenance on the machine, it may be possible to have the charges dismissed entirely, or it may be possible to prove your innocence in a trial.
One thing to always remember after being accused of any crime, including DUI, is that you have rights. If the arresting officer can be proven to have violated your rights in any way, this can result in a case being dismissed. It is quite common for individuals to be unaware of, or not to have a full understanding of, their rights when they are facing a DUI arrest. An experienced DUI lawyer in Pickens County, South Carolina, will be able to examine the facts of your case, determine which of your rights may have been violated during the arrest, and proceed accordingly.
Some of the most important questions to remember in terms of your rights during a DUI arrest include:
- Did the police officer witness you driving?
- What was the reason for pulling you over? Was there probable cause, a traffic violation, or some other reason?
- Were there other witnesses present?
- The arresting officer give a breathalyzer test?
- Were you advised of your Miranda rights, and did you understand them?
Mounting a Strong Defense with a DUI Lawyer in Pickens County, SC
No matter the circumstances of your accident and how guilty you may believe you were, you should understand that there is always an effective and aggressive defense strategy which will help you attain the best possible outcome in your DUI case.
Many police officers, in our experience, fail to follow proper procedures in DUI arrests, whether it is a mishandled field sobriety test, stopping a vehicle without probable cause, or an improperly administered breathalyzer test; these are frequently strong strategies to see charges reduced or dropped.
Simply obtaining a breathalyzer result that shows a blood-alcohol concentration above the legal limit is not a reason to prematurely plead guilty to DUI charges, and doing so may be a costly mistake. Your DUI defense attorney will carefully examine all of the evidence in your case, and if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the breathalyzer test may be invalid, those results may have to be excluded.
If you have been charged with a DUI, you can use the services of a public defender, but your chances of success will be limited. As experienced and dedicated DUI defense attorneys in Pickens County, South Carolina, we will be able to help you to understand the nuances of your case and the steps necessary to get your DUI charges reduced or dismissed, allowing you to take control of a bad situation.
Implied Consent and Refusing to Take Breathalyzer Tests
South Carolina is an implied consent state, meaning that anyone who refuses to submit to a chemical test, including a breathalyzer test, will see their license suspended for a mandatory period of time. For a first offense, this suspension is for 6 months, 9 months for a second offense, and 1 year for a third. Still, you do have the right to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test if you wish to do so and are willing to accept this consequence.
If you do submit to a breathalyzer test and the results show a blood-alcohol concentration above the legal limit, there are some circumstances in which you may challenge those results in court. In South Carolina, the standard scale for legal BAC levels is:
- Drivers under 21: 0.02%
- Drivers 21 and up 0.08%
- Commercial Drivers. 0.04%
Punishments for DUI Offenses in South Carolina
All people guilty of a DUI in South Carolina, first offense or repeat offender, will face some amount of jail time. For a first offense, this sentence could be a minimum of 48 hours, up to a maximum of 90 days. A second offense carries a minimum sentence of 5 days, with a maximum of 3 years, and a third offense will jail offenders for at least 60 days, and not longer than 5 years.
In addition to jail time, monetary fines are imposed on DUI offenders. Like with jail time, first offenders will see a lighter fine, while repeat offenses become fairly costly. For a first offense, a fine of between $400 and $1,000 will be imposed. Second offenders pay between $2,100 and $6,500, and third offenses carry penalties ranging from $3,800 to $10,000.
Regardless of the number of offenses, anyone convicted of a DUI in the state of South Carolina will lose their license for a period from 6 months to 2 years. In addition, a fourth offense comes with a permanent forfeiture of your driver’s license.
First-time offenders may serve their sentence, pay their fines, and go on about their lives, but repeat offenders will have to install an Ignition Interlock Device, designed to prevent driving after drinking by rendering the vehicle unable to start if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.
Hiring a DUI Defense Lawyer in Pickens County, South Carolina
South Carolina is known for many things – excellent golf courses, beautiful beaches, but recently due to the passing of Emma’s Law, it is also known as one of the toughest states on those who have been convicted of a DUI. Emma’s Law makes ignition interlock devices mandatory for the second DUI offense, or first offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher – in addition to fines and jail time.
These harsher punishments make it even more important for anyone charged with DUI to seek out the assistance of an experienced DUI defense attorney right away.
As the old saying goes, the person who represents himself is a lawyer with a fool for a client. Even if you have a strong legal background, it is always advisable to have someone else consider your case, examine your evidence, and present options. For this reason, if you have been charged with DUI, we urge you to reach out to the Bateman Law Firm right away and let us get to work on your case.
Frequently Asked Questions about Drunk Driving in South Carolina
What are the possible penalties if I am charged with DUI in Pickens County, South Carolina?
Suspension or restriction of your driver’s license, fines from $400 up to $10,000, jail time ranging from 48 hours up to 5 years, and a mandatory ignition interlock device. In addition, you will likely need to obtain special SR-22 liability insurance for your vehicle in order to have your driving privileges returned.
The DUI itself will be a misdemeanor or, sometimes, a felony conviction on your criminal record. You may also be required to perform community service and attend an Alcohol & Drug Safety Action Program.
What does “impaired” legally mean?
Under South Carolina state law, impairment is when one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is materially and appreciably hindered. It is something of a subjective word, and aside from blood-alcohol concentration, there is no definitive measure of impairment.
Do breathalyzer results decide my conviction?
No. A breathalyzer test is usually submitted to show the officer had probable cause for a DUI arrest, and as evidence of impairment. However, there are many requirements for a breathalyzer test to be properly administered and if any mistakes are made by the arresting officer, it can harm the reliability of the results in the eyes of a judge or jury. Obtaining a result of 0.08 or higher on a breathalyzer test does not automatically make you guilty of a DUI.
Can I refuse to take a breathalyzer test or sobriety test?
You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. You also have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but refusal will result in the suspension of your license for at least 6 months.
Is it my word against the police when I fight a DUI charge?
No – it is your evidence against the prosecution’s evidence. In the state of South Carolina, all aspects of a DUI arrest need to be documented on video unless it is physically impossible to do so (and the officer must submit a sworn affidavit to this effect). The video evidence may be used during the trial to show precisely what occurred at the arrest.
Are breathalyzer tests videotaped?
If you are issued a breathalyzer test by an officer in South Carolina, the activity at the breath test site must be recorded on video if at all possible. As the video from the scene, this video is also admissible as evidence in your trial.
What if I am arrested for DUI while under 21?
Since the legal BAC limit for a driver under the age of 21 is significantly lower, at just 0.02%, it is quite easy for someone under 21 to be charged with DUI. This charge includes an automatic 3 month suspension of their driver’s license.
What if I am on private property?
Yes. South Carolina’s DUI statutes apply anywhere in the state, and that includes on public roads, parking lots, and private property.
Can I drive if my case is still pending?
If your license has been suspended, do not continue driving. You may be able to request an administrative hearing within a month (30 days) of your arrest to attempt to have your license reinstated while your case is pending.
Do I need to participate in a substance abuse program if charged with DUI?
Yes. The state of South Carolina requires everyone convicted of DUI to enroll in the ADSAP, or Alcohol & Drug Safety Action Program.
Schedule a Consultation with a Pickens County DUI Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI, don’t delay. Contact the Bateman Law Firm and discuss your case with an experienced DUI lawyer serving Pickens County, South Carolina, today. We will go to work to get your charges reduced or dismissed, to prove your innocence, or whatever else is necessary to help you get the best possible outcome from your case.