If you are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, you need to defend yourself by all means available. DUI charges carry administrative and criminal penalties, and even first-time offenders face mandatory jail time, fines, and various other consequences. The good news is that there are several potential defenses available; and, to find out how you can fight your case, you will want to speak with a South Carolina DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.
How Can You Fight Your South Carolina DUI?
So, how can you fight your South Carolina DUI charge? Here are five examples of defenses that can be used to avoid a guilty verdict in South Carolina municipal court:
1. Failure to Record Your Traffic Stop and Breath Test
By law in South Carolina, police officers are required to video record the entirety of every DUI traffic stop they conduct. They must begin recording as soon as they turn on their blue lights, and they must record everything through the administration of the breathalyzer. If the officer who arrested you for DUI did not record your traffic stop – or if the video shows that the officer failed to take all of the steps required to make a valid arrest – then you may be entitled to a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
What is required for a “valid” arrest? At a minimum, the video recording of your DUI traffic stop must show that the officer:
- Read your Miranda rights;
- Informed you that your breath test would be recorded;
- Informed you that you had the option to refuse the breath test;
- Checked your mouth and waited 20 minutes prior to administering the breathalyzer; and,
- Conducted the breathalyzer test consistent with standard South Carolina protocols.
There are a couple of exceptions to South Carolina’s video recording requirement. An arresting officer is not required to record a DUI traffic stop if exigent circumstances exist, or if it is physically impossible to do so. However, these exceptions will not apply in most cases. When you get arrested for DUI in South Carolina, your attorney can request a copy of your arrest video; and, if the video is not available, it will be up to the police and prosecutors to justify why no video exists.
2. Invalid Breathalyzer Test Results
Even if the arresting officer records your breathalyzer test, there are still various issues that could render the test itself invalid. For example, maybe the breathalyzer device had not recently been calibrated, or maybe the officer who administered the test was not adequately trained or did not follow the requisite procedures.
There are several other issues that can lead to a “false positive” for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.08 percent as well. Some examples of these issues include:
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
- Increase in BAC after being pulled over (such that your BAC was not above the legal limit while you were driving)
- Recent consumption of a cough or cold medication
- Recent consumption of breath mints or certain kinds of foods
- Recent use of mouthwash
3. Invalid Field Sobriety Test (FST) Results
While drivers in South Carolina are generally required to submit to a breath test under the state’s “implied consent” law, this law does not apply to the field sobriety tests (FSTs). But, if you submit to the FSTs voluntarily (even if you were not aware that you had the option to refuse), your performance on the tests can be used against you in court.
In order for FST results to be considered valid evidence in a DUI case, however, the arresting officer must perform the tests properly, and he or she must accurately interpret the driver’s performance. From improperly describing the tasks the driver needs to perform to failing to consider alternate explanations for poor performance on the FSTs (such as a medical condition that impairs balance), there are various issues that can render FST results unreliable. If your FST results are unreliable and there is not other evidence to prove your guilt (i.e. if the arresting officer failed to record your traffic stop), then challenging your FST results could protect you against a conviction.
4. Inadequate Evidence of Impairment
Having a BAC of 0.08 percent or above is not the only way that you can face a DUI charge in South Carolina. If you’re your “faculties to drive are materially and appreciably impaired,” you can be charged with DUI regardless of your BAC. As the South Carolina Department of Public Safety explains, “If you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, it will be inferred that you were driving under the influence. If you have a BAC that is at least 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 percent, your BAC level may be considered along with other evidence to infer that you are under the influence.”
With this in mind, one way that some drivers will be able to avoid a DUI conviction is by successfully arguing against the prosecution’s allegations of impairment. If there is not sufficient evidence to prove that your driving faculties were diminished, then you do not deserve to be convicted at trial.
5. Violations of Your Constitutional Rights
Finally, many DUI defendants are able to avoid conviction by asserting their constitutional rights. If the police violated your constitutional rights on the road or while you were in custody, or if issues arising during your DUI case amount to constitutional infringements, these issues may justify a motion to dismiss. Examples of constitutional violations that can provide defenses in DUI cases include:
- Violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures
- Violation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination
- Violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy
- Violation of the Sixth Amendment protections against surprise charges and evidence
- Violation of the Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel
- Violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy and public trial
Request a Consultation with a Rock Hill, SC DUI Defense Attorney
Are you facing a DUI charge in the Rock Hill, SC area? To discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney, call 803-328-8822 or request a consultation online today.