An article in WMBF News reports that a man has been charged with a felony DUI (driving under the influence) following a crash on July 3, 2016, that left one person fatally injured. The crash happened when the driver of an SUV – Christopher Cooper, age 30 – ran his vehicle off of the road, resulting a rollover. The accident ejected both Cooper and his passenger – Tristan Marino, age 20 – from the vehicle (it appears neither party was wearing a seatbelt at the time). While Marino was taken to Grand Strand Medical Center, his injuries proved to be fatal. Cooper was arrested and charged with a felony DUI.
The DUI arrest was not the only one that occurred during the Fourth of July 2016 weekend; according to ABC 15 News, citing the South Carolina Department of Safety, there were 11 people killed in South Carolina over the weekend, 242 DUI arrests, and 900 crashes.
Of all DUI charges, there are none more serious than a felony DUI. The following considers what constitutes a felony DUI charge in South Carolina, defenses to a felony DUI, and what you can do if you are facing felony DUI charges in the state.
What Constitutes a Felony DUI in South Carolina?
According to South Carolina Code of Laws section 56-5-2945, a DUI is classified as a felony when:
A person, while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination…drives a motor vehicle…and causes great bodily injury or death to a person other than himself…
Further defined by the statute, “great bodily injury” means “injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement,” or which causes impairment of function of any body part or organ.
Punishment for a Felony DUI in South Carolina
As stated above, a felony DUI is one of the most serious charges that a person can face in South Carolina, and is certainly the most serious type of DUI charge. The specific penalties for a felony DUI conviction depend upon whether or not the DUI accident results in death or serious bodily injury.
- Serious bodily injury. If the DUI results in serious bodily injury to another, the crime is punishable by a mandatory fine of not less than $5,100 (nor more than $10,100) and a mandatory imprisonment of no more than 15 years, and no less than 30 days.
- Death. If a DUI accident causes a death, the penalties are much harsher. A person convicted of a felony DUI resulted in death will face a fine of up to $25,100, and no less than $10,100, as well as imprisonment of no less than one year, but no more than 25 years,
Keep in mind that the penalties above only discuss incarceration time and fines, both of which are very likely. In addition, however, a person convicted of a felony DUI will likely have their license revoked, will be required to attend mandatory alcohol education classes, will have a permanent note on their criminal record, may be limited in future employment and housing opportunities, and may face civil penalties (brought forth by the victim or their family) as well.
Defenses to Felony DUI Charges
Injuring or killing someone because you drove drunk is a horrible thing. At The Bateman Law Firm, we realize that doing a bad thing does not make you a bad person, and that mistakes happen. It is for this reason that we firmly oppose minimum sentencing requirements, and believe that every person who is charged with a DUI deserves an opportunity to present their case and be represented by a highly competent attorney. Our attorneys know how much is on the line for you; we will help you to explore defenses to felony DUI charges, including lack of knowledge of impairment (e.g. you were impaired by a medication with side effects of which you were unaware, someone else spiked your drink without your consent, etc.); lack of intoxication (while you had a drink and caused an accident that result in bodily injury or death, you were not impaired beyond the legal limit of .08 percent); and lack of fault (while you may have been driving while intoxicated, you may not be criminally responsible for the accident if the other driver’s actions were the cause of the crash). We will navigate all possible defense options and holes in the prosecution’s argument, including the legality of a forced blood test, the accuracy of a breathalyzer test, and more.
In addition to exploring different defense options, we can also help you to explore the possibility of accepting a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a deal between you and the prosecution where you plead guilty in return for something, usually reduced charges or a less severe sentence.
Why You Need an Experienced Greenville DUI Defense Attorney
At The Bateman Law Firm, we firmly believe that no one gets behind the wheel – intoxicated or otherwise – with the intent and desire to cause another person harm. If you have injured or killed someone because you were driving drunk, we know that you are likely experience severe guilt and pain. As you go through this difficult time, our aggressive Greenville DUI defense attorneys are here to ensure that no matter what happens, your rights in the eyes of the law are protected. Guilty or not, you deserve adequate legal representation and a fair criminal proceeding.
When you are charged with a felony DUI, a judge and jury are unlikely to sympathize with your story. The attorneys at The Bateman Law Firm will do everything we can to have the charges against you dropped or reduced, or to have your sentencing reduced.
When facing felony charges of any type, your future is on the line. Take action before it is too late – contact our legal team today. You can call our offices directly, or request a free case consultation by telling us more about your situation using our online form.