Charged with DUI Drugs in South Carolina?

Charged with DUI Drugs in South Carolina?

Driving under the influence of alcohol is not the only way to get a DUI charge in South Carolina. You can also be charged with DUI for driving under the influence of drugs (“DUI drugs”). While there are some similarities between DUI cases involving alcohol and drugs, there are also important differences, and you will need to hire a lawyer who has experience handling your specific charge.

What is DUI Drugs in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s DUI statute applies to both alcohol and drugs. Under Section 56-5-2930(A) of the South Carolina Code of Laws:

“It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol . . . [or] any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired . . . .”

Since DUI and DUI drugs are technically the same offense, they are also subject to the same penalties. This means that if you have been charged with DUI drugs in South Carolina, you could be facing:

First-Time DUI Charge

  • $400 fine
  • Additional assessments and surcharges
  • Six-month driver’s license suspension
  • Minimum 48-hour jail sentence (up to 30 days)
  • Possible community service in lieu of jail time
  • Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program completion

Second-Time DUI Charge

  • $2,100 to $5,100 fine
  • Additional assessments and surcharges
  • One-year driver’s license suspension
  • Five days to one year of jail time
  • Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program completion

Third-Time DUI Charge

  • $3,800 to $6,300 fine
  • Additional assessments and surcharges
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension
  • 60 days to three years of jail time
  • Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program completion

Fourth or Subsequent DUI

  • Court-determined fines, assessments, and surcharges
  • Permanent driver’s license revocation
  • One to five years of jail time
  • Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program completion

The fact that DUI and DUI drugs are technically the same offense also means that you can be charged as a repeat offender if you have a prior alcohol-related DUI and you are now facing a charge for DUI drugs. Likewise, if you have a prior drug-related DUI conviction involving a drug that is different from the one involved in your current case, you can still be charged with a second (or subsequent) DUI drugs.

What are Potential Defenses to a DUI Drugs Charge in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription painkillers, or any other legal or illegal drug, what defenses can you assert in South Carolina court? The answer to this question depends on the specific facts of your case. Generally speaking, however, some examples of potential defenses to drug-related DUI charges in South Carolina include:

1. You Were Not Under the Influence of a Drug (or Drugs)

One potential defense is that you were not actually driving under the influence of drugs. If the arresting officer mistakenly assumed that you were under the influence (maybe because he or she found drugs or drug paraphernalia in your vehicle), your attorney can seek to challenge the prosecution’s evidence that you were violating the law.

2. Your Ability to Drive was Not “Materially and Appreciably Impaired”

Even if it is not possible to dispute the fact that you were driving under the influence of drugs, you may still be able to avoid a DUI drugs conviction by arguing that you were not “materially and appreciably impaired.” This language in South Carolina’s DUI statute establishes a high bar for prosecutors; and, while there may be evidence (i.e. dash camera footage) demonstrating your impairment, it may be possible for your attorney to challenge this element of the government’s case as well.

3. The Police Stopped You Illegally

In order to conduct a lawful traffic stop, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” that the person stopped is guilty of a crime. If the police stopped you without reasonable suspicion, then any evidence obtained subsequent to your traffic stop may be inadmissible in court.

When can you assert lack of reasonable suspicion as a defense? While there are several possible scenarios, racial profiling is easily among the most-common grounds. However, if the police pulled you over for a busted taillight and then charged you with DUI drugs, this does not mean that they lacked reasonable suspicion to make an arrest.

4. The Police Conducted an Illegal Search, Seizure, or Arrest

In addition to having “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a traffic stop, the police must also have “probable cause” to conduct a search or seizure—or to make an arrest. If the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an illegal search, seizure, or arrest, this could also provide grounds to seek suppression of the prosecution’s evidence against you.

5. Your Blood or Urine Test Results are Unreliable

If you took a blood or urine test, there are a number of ways that your defense attorney may be able to challenge your test results. One option is to show that the arresting officer failed to inform you of your rights under South Carolina’s implied consent law. Other possible options include:

  • Demonstrating that the test was administered improperly;
  • Demonstrating that your sample was (or may have been) tainted; and,
  • Arguing that the results do not prove you were impaired at the time of your traffic stop.

As mentioned above, these are just examples. There are other ways to defend against a DUI drugs charge in South Carolina as well. To find out what defenses you can use to fight your DUI drugs charge, contact us to discuss your case today.

Charged with DUI Drugs in South Carolina? Talk to a Rock Hill Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Are you facing a DUI drugs charge in South Carolina? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your case. To speak with an experienced Rock Hill criminal defense lawyer in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or tell us how we can reach you online now.

What is an Implied Consent Violation in South Carolina?

What is an Implied Consent Violation in South Carolina?

When you get pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina, you are required by law to take a breath test. This is based on Section 56-5-2950 of the South Carolina Code, which is also known as the state’s “implied consent” law.

What is South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law?

Lots of states have implied consent laws. Under these laws, by driving on the state’s public roads, you automatically consent to have your breath sample taken in the event that you get pulled over for DUI. However, not only must you provide a breath sample; but, if you refuse to do so, you can lose your driver’s license immediately—regardless of whether you were actually driving under the influence.

South Carolina’s implied consent law states, in part:

“A person who drives a motor vehicle in this State is considered to have given consent to chemical tests of the person’s breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of alcohol and drugs, if arrested for an offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. . . . At the direction of the arresting officer, the person first must be offered a breath test to determine the person’s alcohol concentration.”

As you can see, South Carolina’s implied consent law technically requires you to submit to a “chemical test” performed by taking a breath, blood, or urine sample. However, your arresting officer must offer a breath test first; and, as a practical matter, blood and urine tests are rare—the police cannot force you to provide a sample; and, if you refuse, you will simply be charged with an implied consent violation.

What are the Consequences of Violating South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law?

Violating South Carolina’s implied consent law has two primary consequences. First, your driver’s license will be suspended for a minimum of six months, unless you opt to enroll in South Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Device Program. You will also have to enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. This “administrative” driver’s license suspension happens automatically; and, in order to avoid it, you must either request a hearing before the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings at the South Carolina DMV or apply for a “temporary alcohol license” within 30 days.

Second, your refusal to submit to a breath test, “may be used against [you] in court.” This means that during your DUI case, the prosecutor’s office can point to the fact that you refused the breath test as evidence that you knew you were driving under the influence. While you can dispute that this was the case, the presumption that you knew you were driving drunk can be difficult to overcome in many cases.

What are Possible Defenses to Violations of South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law?

While South Carolina’s implied consent law is strict, there are a number of possible defenses to alleged implied consent violations. Many of these defenses arising out of the legal requirements for lawfully administering a chemical test during or after a DUI traffic stop. For example, some of the main requirements include:

  • “A breath test must be administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer who has arrested a person for driving a motor vehicle in this State while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.”
  • “A breath sample taken for testing must be collected within two hours of the arrest. Any additional tests to collect other samples must be collected within three hours of the arrest.”
  • “The breath test must be administered by a person trained and certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, pursuant to SLED policies.”
  • “Before the breath test is administered, an eight one-hundredths of one percent simulator test must be performed and the result must reflect a reading between 0.076 percent and 0.084 percent.”
  • “No tests may be administered or samples obtained unless, upon activation of the video recording equipment and prior to the commencement of the testing procedure, the person has been given a written copy of and verbally informed [of the law].”

This last requirement in particular will provide a defense to an alleged implied consent violation in many cases. In order for South Carolina’s implied consent law to apply, the arresting officer must inform you of various legal provisions prior to administering the breath test—and he or she must do so on camera. If there is no video evidence that you were provided with all required information, this could provide a strong defense to your South Carolina implied consent charge:

  • You do not have to give a breath sample, but if you do you will be charged with an implied consent violation.
  • Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months (or you will have to enroll in South Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Device Program) if you refuse the breath test.
  • You have the right to have your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) independently tested at your own expense.
  • You have the right to request a hearing within 30 days of receiving a “notice of suspension” of your driver’s license.
  • If you do not request a hearing or your administrative driver’s license suspension is upheld, you will be required to enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Charged with an Implied Consent Violation in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with an implied consent violation in South Carolina, what should you do? The most important thing you can do is to speak with a local DUI defense lawyer promptly. You will need to request a hearing in order to try to protect your driver’s license (if it is not already too late), and you will need to begin working on your DUI defense strategy as well.

Discuss Your South Carolina DUI Case in Confidence

Are you facing implied consent and DUI charges in South Carolina? If so, we encourage you to contact us about your case right away. To speak with one of our Rock Hill, SC DUI defense lawyers in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or get in touch online now.

10 Reasons to Hire a DUI Lawyer for Your South Carolina DUI Case

10 Reasons to Hire a DUI Lawyer for Your South Carolina DUI Case

You’ve been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina, and you are wondering if you should hire a DUI lawyer. You are concerned about paying expensive legal fees, and you are not clear on what exactly a lawyer will be able to do in order to affect the outcome of your case. So, is it worth it? Or, should you represent yourself and take your chances in court?

Why Should You Hire a DUI Defense Lawyer for Your South Carolina DUI Case?

In South Carolina, there are many reasons why representing yourself in a DUI case is not a good idea. When you consider what is at stake and what is involved in presenting an effective defense, it is not hard to see why your best option by far is to hire an experienced defense attorney. Here are 10 of the top reasons why you should hire a DUI defense lawyer to represent you:

Reason #1: South Carolina’s DUI Laws are Complicated

From the definition of “driving under the influence” to the differing penalties for the various DUI-related offenses that exist under South Carolina law, there are numerous complex issues involved in understanding a DUI case. In order to defend yourself effectively, you need to have a commanding grasp of the law, and you need to know how to use it to your advantage.

Reason #2: A DUI Arrest Can Have Immediate Consequences

When you get arrested for DUI in South Carolina, there are certain immediate consequences. For example, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended, and you will lose the right to appeal the suspension if you do not act within 30 days. Filing an appeal also allows you to apply for a temporary alcohol restricted license, or “TARL,” but protecting your license after your TARL expires will require evidence that some aspect of your DUI arrest was improper.

Reason #3: A DUI Conviction Can Lead to Substantial Penalties

If you are convicted of DUI at trial, you will be at risk for substantial penalties. These include fines and jail time. The penalties for repeat offenders are significantly higher, and this alone is reason enough to fight to keep your criminal record clean.

Reason #4: A DUI Can Impact Your Life in Other Ways as Well

Beyond losing your license, your money, and your freedom, a DUI conviction can impact your life in other ways as well. If you are convicted, you will find it much harder to find a well-paying job; your housing options will be limited; and, if you are thinking about a college, your education could be in jeopardy.

Reason #5: There are Experienced Lawyers on the Other Side of Your Case

When you are charged with DUI in South Carolina, your case is handled by the prosecutor’s office. This means that there will be experienced lawyers on the other side fighting to convict you. If you do not have your own lawyer to level the playing field, you will be at a distinct disadvantage.

Reason #6: There Are Many Potential Defenses to a South Carolina DUI Charge

While there are many dangerous aspects of facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, there are also many potential defenses available. However, in order to determine what defenses you can assert, you will need to work closely with an attorney who can apply the law to the facts of your case.

Reason #7: Being Innocent Does Not Necessarily Mean That You are Safe

While you are innocent until proven guilty, being innocent does not necessarily mean that you are safe. Innocent people get convicted all the time, and it is usually because they did not have effective legal representation in court. If you are facing a DUI charge, you cannot rest easy until your case is fully and finally resolved. Also, you need to keep in mind that while you might think you are innocent, the reality is that you may have still violated South Carolina law.

Reason #8: The Costs of Hiring a Lawyer Can Be Far Less than the Costs of Trying to Handle Your Case on Your Own

With regard to cost, yes, you will need to pay your defense lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer to represent you can be far less costly than trying to handle your case on your own. What is it worth to you to protect your driver’s license? To stay out of jail? To protect your ability to work or go to college? Whatever your answer may be, the amount you pay for your legal representation will almost certainly be far less than what you stand to lose.

Reason #9: You Owe it to Your Family and Yourself to Take Your Case Seriously

Due to the severe consequences of a DUI conviction in South Carolina, you owe it to your family and yourself to take your case seriously. If you assume that everything will be fine (or that there is nothing you can do to protect yourself), you are going to be doing everyone you love a disservice. Facing a DUI charge is a serious matter, and you need to treat it accordingly.

Reason #10: If You Make Mistakes, You Will Regret Them for the Rest of Your Life

Finally, if you try to handle your case yourself and you make mistakes, you will regret your mistakes for the rest of your life. We’ve said it already, by the point cannot be emphasized enough: The consequences of a DUI conviction in South Carolina are severe. You need to make sure you have every opportunity to avoid these consequences, and this starts with hiring an experienced defense attorney.

Discuss Your Case with Rock Hill, SC DUI Defense Lawyer Michael L. Brown, Jr.

Are you facing a DUI charge in the Rock Hill, SC area? If so, we encourage you to contact us immediately to discuss your case. To speak with DUI defense attorney Michael L. Brown, Jr. in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or request a consultation online now.

5 Types of Defenses to DUI Charges in South Carolina

5 Types of Defenses to DUI Charges in South Carolina

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

Learn more: What are Your Constitutional Rights After an Arrest in South Carolina?

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 Rock Hill DUI defense attorney, call 803-328-8822 or request a consultation online today.

What is an “Administrative Suspension” in a South Carolina DUI Case?

What is an “Administrative Suspension” in a South Carolina DUI Case?

While there are many confusing aspects of DUI cases in South Carolina, one of the most confusing for many people is the distinction between administrative and criminal penalties. When you get arrested for DUI in South Carolina, this is a criminal charge that will lead to prosecution in state court if you do not resolve your case prior to trial. However, a DUI arrest also triggers administrative proceedings at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and these proceedings can result in penalties even if you are not ultimately convicted at trial.

There are three primary types of administrative penalties in South Carolina DUI cases. These are (i) financial penalties (including reinstatement fees and the requirement to carry SR22 insurance coverage), (ii) mandatory counseling from the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), and (iii) a driver’s license suspension. In this article, we will address the administrative DUI driver’s license suspension in detail.

When are You at Risk for an Administrative Driver’s License Suspension in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s administrative DUI driver’s license suspension law appears in Section 56-5-2951 of the Code of Laws. In pertinent part, the law states:

“The Department of Motor Vehicles shall suspend the driver’s license, permit, or nonresident operating privilege of, or deny the issuance of a license or permit to, a person who drives a motor vehicle and refuses to submit to a test provided for in Section 56-5-2950 or has an alcohol concentration of fifteen one-hundredths of one percent or more. The arresting officer shall issue a notice of suspension which is effective beginning on the date of the alleged violation.”

In other words, there are two circumstances in which a DUI traffic stop can result in an administrative suspension: (i) you refuse a breath or blood test in violation of South Carolina’s “implied consent” law, or (ii) you submit to testing and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is recorded at 0.15 percent or more. In either of these scenarios, the arresting officer will issue a “notice of suspension,” and the suspension will be effective immediately.

What are Your Rights After Receiving a “Notice of Suspension” During a DUI Arrest?

If you receive an administrative suspension during your DUI arrest, you have two options, both of which must be exercised within 30 days of the date of your notice of suspension.

First, you have the right to request an administrative hearing. This is a formal, contested hearing before the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings within the South Carolina DMV.

Second, you have the right to obtain a temporary alcohol license (also known as a temporary alcohol restricted license, or “TARL”). This costs $100, and it allows you to “drive without any restrictive conditions pending the outcome of [your] contested case hearing” at the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.

If you request an administrative hearing within 30 days, you will receive a case hearing date from the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. You must make arrangements to be at your hearing as scheduled, and you will want to have an experienced Rock Hill, SC DUI attorney representing you. The hearing is not simply a formality, and in order to restore your driving privileges, you must be able to present successful arguments as to whether:

  • You were lawfully arrested and detained;
  • You were given a written copy of and verbally informed of your rights under South Carolina’s “implied consent” law;
  • You violated South Carolina’s “implied consent” law; or,
  • There were issues with your breath or blood test.

Examples of issues with breath and blood tests that can support arguments for driver’s license reinstatement after an administrative suspension include:

  • The officer who administered the test was not qualified to do so under South Carolina law;
  • The test was not administered in compliance with South Carolina law;
  • The testing device was not functioning properly during your breath or blood test.

While an administrative hearing is not a trial and is not subject to the same procedures and protections as criminal matters in state court, it is still a complex process that requires experienced legal representation. Additionally, the consequences of failing to represent yourself effectively can be severe. If you are unable to drive, this might mean that you are unable to work (or have a far more difficult time getting to work on a daily basis); and, if you get pulled over for driving on a suspended license, you can face additional criminal penalties—including a longer-term driver’s license suspension.

What Happens if You Lose Your Administrative Suspension Hearing?

If you lose your administrative suspension hearing, your administrative suspension will remain in effect; and, if you obtained a temporary alcohol license, this license would be revoked. However, the matter is not necessarily over. If you have grounds and choose to do so, you can appeal the outcome of your hearing by filing a request with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. When you file a request for an appeal, this “stays” your administrative suspension, which means that you will be able to continue driving while your appeal is pending.

If you do not file an appeal, or if your appeal is unsuccessful, then you will be required to enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program with the DAODAS. Your options for driving will be limited to obtaining a “restricted” license (the same would apply if you did not request an administrative hearing within 30 days of your arrest). A restricted license allows you to drive only to your Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program classes and, “to and from work and [your] place of education and in the course of [your] employment or education during the period of suspension.”

Discuss Your Administrative Suspension with a Rock Hill DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for DUI in Rock Hill, SC and would like to speak with a DUI defense attorney about challenging your administrative suspension, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To schedule a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Michael L. Brown, Jr., call us at 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.

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