In South Carolina, a felony DUI is a serious crime. Felony DUIs carry mandatory sentences, and having a felony conviction on your record can negatively impact virtually all aspects of your life.
While there are ways to fight felony DUI charges, avoiding unnecessary consequences requires a strategic defense. You will need to work with an experienced defense lawyer, and you will need to take affirmative steps to target a favorable resolution well in advance of your trial. Here are seven more important facts you need to know if you are facing a felony DUI charge in Rock Hill, SC:
1. Felony DUI is Very Specific Crime
You can only be convicted of a felony DUI in South Carolina under certain specific circumstances. The law states that in order to be convicted of a felony DUI, you must, “while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of alcohol and drugs, drive a motor vehicle and when driving a motor vehicle do any act forbidden by law or neglect any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury or death to another person . . . .” If prosecutors cannot prove each element of the crime, then you are not guilty of a felony DUI.
2. You Can Defend Against a Felony DUI By Arguing Against the Prosecution’s Evidence of Impairment
To secure a conviction for felony DUI, prosecutors must be able to prove that you were, “under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of alcohol and drugs.” Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), your performance on the field sobriety tests (FSTs), and the arresting officer’s observations all serve as possible evidence of impairment. However, it is possible to challenge each of these forms of evidence under appropriate circumstances, and arguing that the prosecution cannot prove you were drunk can be an effective defense strategy in many cases.
Importantly, South Carolina law provides that if a person’s BAC is 0.08 percent or above, “it may be inferred that the person was under the influence of alcohol.” In other words, if you blew 0.08 percent or above on the breathalyzer, you are facing an uphill battle. But, there are various ways to challenge breathalyzer results, and it will be possible to overcome this inference with additional evidence in some cases.
3. You Can Defend Against a Felony DUI By Arguing Against the Prosecution’s Evidence that You Caused the Accident
Even if you were driving under the influence, this does not necessarily mean that you caused the accident. Your brakes could have failed, the other driver could have been distracted, or any of a number of other factors could be to blame for the collision. If you did not make a mistake that “proximately cause[d]” the accident, then you might be guilty of DUI, but you are not guilty of felony DUI.
4. You Can Defend Against a Felony DUI By Arguing Against the Prosecution’s Evidence of “Great Bodily Injury”
Let’s assume that you were driving under the influence, and let’s also assume that your impairment was a factor in the crash. This still isn’t enough to establish guilt for a felony DUI under South Carolina law. Prosecutors must also be able to prove that the accident caused “great bodily injury” or death.
South Carolina law defines “great bodily injury” as, “bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” What constitutes a “substantial risk of death”? When is a loss or impairment considered “protracted”? These questions don’t necessarily have clear answers, and this ambiguity could work to your advantage in your felony DUI case.
5. You Can Defend Against a Felony DUI By Asserting Your Constitutional Rights
Now, let’s assume that you caused an accident resulting in “great bodily injury” or death while you were drunk. Does this mean that the prosecution has an open-and-shut case? Not necessarily.
As a criminal defendant in South Carolina, you are entitled to all of the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution. This includes the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the protection against self-incrimination—among many others. If police or prosecutors violate your constitutional rights at any stage of your felony DUI case, this could provide a defense that you can use to avoid a conviction.
6. Felony DUI Charges Carry Mandatory Penalties
If you get convicted of a felony DUI in South Carolina, you will be subject to mandatory penalties. These mandatory penalties include fines and prison time, and you will be required to serve at least a portion of your prison sentence without suspension. South Carolina law also prohibits judges from granting probation for any portion of a felony DUI sentence.
In addition to fines and jail time, you will face a mandatory driver’s license suspension; and, once you serve your sentence, you will be required to enroll in South Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Device Program. You will then be required to obtain an ignition interlock restricted license, and you will need to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for three years (or five years in the case of an accident resulting in death).
7. You Cannot Afford to Take Chances When Facing a Felony DUI Charge
Given the severe consequences of a felony DUI conviction, you cannot afford to take chances. You need to take your case very seriously, and you need to defend yourself by all means available. A lawyer who is experienced in handling felony DUI cases will be able to examine your case from all angles, identify any and all defenses you have available, and pursue a defense strategy focused on protecting you to the fullest extent possible.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Rock Hill Felony DUI Lawyer
If you are facing a felony DUI charge in Rock Hill, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free consultation. To speak with an experienced Rock Hill felony DUI lawyer in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.