A DUI is a serious criminal charge in South Carolina. Depending on whether this is your first offense or you already have a DUI (or multiple DUIs) on your record, you could be facing hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines and anywhere from 48 hours to five years in jail. You could lose your driving privileges and face other penalties as well, and then there are practical consequences such as finding it difficult to land (or keep) a decent-paying job.
With these penalties and consequences in mind, if you have been arrested for DUI in South Carolina, there are both steps you need to take and mistakes you need to avoid. Here are seven critical mistakes that could make it more difficult to avoid conviction and/or mitigate the consequences of your South Carolina DUI:
Mistake #1: Refusing the Breath Test
It’s too late to fix this one; but, if you refused to take a breath test, this could create a couple of issues in your DUI case.
First, your refusal to submit to the breathalyzer can be used against you in court. While the prosecutors won’t have your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to use as evidence, they will be able to argue that your refusal indicates you knew you were drunk at the time of your arrest. While there are ways to overcome this presumption, your decision to refuse the breath test could mean you are facing an uphill battle.
Second, if you improperly refused the breath test, you could be punished for violating South Carolina’s implied consent law. An implied consent violation (or “DUI refusal”) can lead to a driver’s license suspension even if you were not actually driving under the influence. In other words, in order to protect your driving privileges, you will need to defend yourself against two separate charges during your case.
Mistake #2: Talking to the Police
When you get arrested, you need to exercise your right to remain silent. Do not answer any questions (other than to identify yourself, as is required by law during a traffic stop), and do not volunteer any information. Anything you say will only be used against you (yes, this is actually true in real life—it’s not just something they say in movies), and you cannot be forced to make any statements that implicate you in a crime.
This is the point at which you should seek legal representation. To the extent that anything needs to be said to the police or the prosecutor’s office, your attorney can say it on your behalf. Not only will this help you avoid saying something you shouldn’t, but it will also allow your attorney to begin steering your case toward a favorable resolution.
Mistake #3: Asking a Friend or Family Member What You Should Do
If you have a friend or family who has experience dealing with South Carolina’s judicial system, it may seem like a good idea to ask him or her for tips about handling your case. After all, what’s the harm in getting some free advice from someone who’s been in your situation before?
Unless your friend or family member is a criminal defense lawyer, there are a number of reasons why this isn’t the best idea. For one, South Carolina’s criminal laws (and the federal constitutional principles that apply in state DUI cases) are complicated, and there is a good chance that, while well-meaning, your friend’s or family member’s advice will be incorrect. For another, the facts of your case are unique to you, and what made sense in your friend or family member’s situation may not make sense for you.
Mistake #4: Waiting Too Long to Speak with an Attorney
As we mentioned above, once you get arrested for DUI, you should speak with a DUI attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you don’t make mistakes when dealing with the authorities. But, there are other reasons why you should contact an attorney right away as well.
In order to restore your driving privileges while your case is pending, you will need to challenge your driver’s license suspension in an administrative hearing. You must request this hearing well before your DUI trial. Seeking legal representation promptly will also give your attorney time to build the strongest possible case for a “not guilty” verdict or a favorable pre-trial resolution.
Mistake #5: Getting Arrested for DUI Again
While your DUI case is pending, you do not want to get arrested for DUI again. This may sound obvious, but it is a mistake that people make all too often. You must also avoid getting pulled over while driving on a suspended license. A subsequent arrest will put you at risk for substantial penalties, and it won’t put you in good standing with the judge who is presiding over your current DUI case.
Mistake #6: Assuming You are Innocent
Regardless of the circumstances of your case, you cannot afford to assume that your DUI charge will be dropped. With all that is at stake, you need to take your case extremely seriously, and this means fighting your charge by all means available. If you get complacent, if you assume that you can’t be convicted because the police didn’t read your Miranda rights or you blew below a 0.08 BAC, or if you decide that you don’t need an attorney, you could find yourself facing a lifetime of consequences.
Mistake #7: Assuming You are Guilty
At the same time, you also need to avoid assuming that you are guilty. Even if you have no doubt that your BAC was above the legal limit when the police stopped you, you could still have defenses available. From questioning the reliability of your breath test results to arguing that the police stopped you without reasonable suspicion, there are multiple ways to defend against a DUI charge even if you were drunk at the time of your arrest.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Rock Hill, SC
Are you facing a DUI charge in Rock Hill, SC or the surrounding areas? If so, we encourage you to contact us immediately to discuss your case. To speak with an experienced DUI lawyer in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.