A 24-year-old South Carolina teacher was recently charged with a felony DUI, following a mid-August early morning crash in which the teacher, Wendy Ellen Burnett, crashed her car into a patrol car. The police officer in the patrol car sustained injuries, according to reports.
Police Officer Sustains Injuries
The police officer who was harmed in the crash, Andrew Turner, was hospitalized with serious injuries. The media reports that Turner was released a few days following the crash, although his injuries are still “serious.” As Turner goes through the healing process with his family, the attorneys of The Bateman Law Firm are thinking of him and his loved ones.
Charges Faced by Teacher
The teacher who was arrested at the accident scene was charged with a felony DUI. In addition to these criminal penalties, Charleston County School District has placed Burnett on administrative leave pending a conviction. Further, Burnett may also face civil charges (brought forth by Turner and family). While reports state that is unclear at this point whether or not she has a lawyer, it is highly recommended that she obtain one – being charged with a felony DUI in South Carolina is an extremely serious offense.
What Happens If I’m Charged with a Felony DUI?
When a person drinks and drives and causes bodily injury to another person, they are guilty of a felony DUI. At the scene of the accident, the responding officer will likely request that the intoxicated person submit to a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test, or both.
It is important for those who are pulled over and asked to submit to these tests to understand that they do not have to comply. Regardless of who you are, you have the right to refuse to submit to field sobriety, blood, or breath alcohol tests when asked to do so. Keep in mind that the refusal to do this will result in a license suspension. However, a license suspension is a much less serious consequence than are the consequences that are associated with a DUI conviction.
Even if you do not submit to a field sobriety test or provide the responding officer with a sample of your blood or breath to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC), you can still be arrested if the officer has probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated. Once you are arrested, you cannot be kept unless charges are formally pressed against you.
Once charges have been formally filed against you, it is extremely important that you contact an attorney if you have not done so already. This is because the next step is entering a plea – of either guilty or not guilty – and the plea that you choose can have a huge effect on your future. Your attorney can help you to determine what your best options are.
Is a Conviction Imminent?
Whether or not you will be convicted of a felony DUI if you were drinking and driving and caused bodily injury (or death) to another person will depending entirely on the facts of your case and the strength of your defense. If police do not have proof of your BAC – which could be used against you to obtain a conviction – then your chances are usually better. By working with an attorney, you can build a defense. Defenses to a felony DUI may include:
- Something other than intoxication contributed to or cause the accident;
- You were unintentionally intoxicated (i.e. someone spiked your drink or drugged you); or
- You were impaired due to a prescription drug, and were unaware of the impairment.
An attorney can also work with you to have evidence against you dismissed. For example, if your rights were violated while securing your BAC, then any evidence related to this may not be admitted into court.
What Happens if I Am Convicted?
If you are convicted of a felony DUI in South Carolina, there are serious penalties. The penalties are more serious depending upon your BAC and the damage sustained by the other person (for example, a DUI resulting in death is the most serious of DUI crimes). If you are convicted of a felony DUI in South Carolina, you may face:
- A fine of up to $25,100;
- A prison sentence of up to 25 years;
- Mandatory alcohol education or rehabilitation;
- Court fines and fees; and
- Mandatory community service.
It is also important to note that if you are convicted of a felony DUI, the conviction will show on your permanent record. This may affect your ability to obtain certain types of employment, acquire housing, be admitted into higher education programs, and more.
In some cases, your attorney may be able to arrange a less severe sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty. In other cases, your attorney may be able to have the charges against you dropped entirely, or reduced significantly.
What Are My Rights When Charged With a Felony DUI?
As mentioned above, it is not known whether or not Burnett has an attorney. That being said, Burnett – and anyone who is convicted of a DUI – has the right to competent legal counsel. A person convicted of a crime also has the right to remain silent, per the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which means that one does not have to testify against oneself.
Contact Our Experienced Attorneys Today
If you have been arrested and charged with a felony DUI or other DUI crime in Greenville, South Carolina or surrounding areas, please contact our experienced South Carolina DUI attorneys as soon as possible – tell the arresting officers that you are exercising your right to an attorney as soon as you are arrested. At The Bateman Law Firm, we will work hard to protect your rights, and you can count on our talented legal team to advocate for you.
You can reach us today online, or contact us by phone. Your initial consultation is completely free.