DUI is a serious offense in South Carolina. In fact, the DUI laws in the state are touted as zero-tolerance so it is a good idea to know what happens when the police stop you for DUI. This usually means that you are in for stiff penalties if you get a DUI citation. This is particularly the case if you are unaware of the process and don’t know how to best protect your rights. If you know the process, you are able to make conscious decisions every step of the way. This helps you mitigate the fallout from a DUI citation. It also greatly aids you in subsequently fighting a DUI citation.
Here is a quick rundown of the process that takes place once you are pulled over for DUI.
Getting Pulled Over
The DUI citation process starts when you are pulled over by a police officer. This can happen for a variety of reasons. You may be stopped for speeding, running a red light or for routine checks at a police checkpost. If the officer suspects that you are drunk or under the influence, he may further investigate the potential DUI violation.
It is important to note here that a police officer generally can’t stop you without a genuine reason. If an officer stops you randomly out of the blue without genuine proof of suspicion, you can fight the initial stop at the court with the help of a DUI lawyer. If the initial act of pulling you over by the officer is not by the book, the DUI charges may be dropped.
Field Sobriety Tests
This is typically the second step in the DUI citation process. The office asks you to step out of the vehicle and undergo a variety of field sobriety tests. These may include walking along a straight line, standing with knee raised for a period and counting numbers. All are meant to see if you are physically or mentally impaired.
If you pass the field sobriety tests, you are usually free to go. You can also refuse to take the field sobriety tests. As per South Carolina Code of Laws Section 56.5.2953, refusing field sobriety tests is perfectly legal. If you do this, the officer will determine if there is probable cause to charge you. If probable cause exists, you will be charged with DUI.
If you fail the field sobriety tests, you are then asked to take a breathalyzer test by the police officer. This may be done using a portable breathalyzer device or the standard machine at the police station. Both devices provide an estimate of your blood alcohol level (BAC). However, results from a portable device can’t be administered in a court of law. These can only be used as a probable cause for the officer to charge you.
Results from a standard breathalyzer machine are fairly accurate and are used as evidence in the state’s case against you. If BAC results from the breathalyzer are not above the limit, you are typically free to go. If the results are above the designated limit, which is 0.08 in most cases, you will be charged.
You can refuse a breathalyzer test but not without harsh penalties. South Carolina Code of Laws Section 56.5.2950 says that you have given implied consent for a breathalyzer test if you choose to drive in the state. When you refuse to take the breathalyzer test for the first time, you get a minimum license suspension of 6 months. Refusing the test a second time results in a 9-month license suspension. A third refusal can result in a one-year suspension.
Even if you refuse the breathalyzer test, you are charged although the state doesn’t have hard evidence against you in this case. You can fight the DUI charge but you will still face the civil penalties for refusing the test.
Charged for DUI
Once you are charged for DUI, you have a number of options. You can either plead guilty in which case you will get a less harsh sentence compared to the standard penalties. You can alternatively seek to fight a case. In this latter case, you have the option of a bench trial or a jury trial.
How Can a Clemson SC DUI Lawyer Help You?
In most DUI cases, you can successfully fight the charges. All DUI arrests and citations must strictly follow a procedure. The officer must tape the arrest and breathalyzer test, for instance, and failure to do so makes the arrest invalid. Similarly, there are other requirements that must be met for a DUI charge to be genuine. A good Clemson DUI defense attorney will look at your case and see any potential gaps in the indictment. The attorney will also determine whether or not the evidence against you is admissible.
Hiring a Clemson SC Dui Attorney
Here at the Bateman Firm, we have worked with countless DUI cases in Clemson SC. We work with you to prop up an effective defense against the DUI charges. DUI defense lawyers at our firm help you get a reduced DUI sentence or have the charges dropped altogether. Contact us today to discuss your DUI case with our attorneys in a FREE consultation.