Charged with DUI Drugs in South Carolina?

by | Apr 1, 2021 | DUI Charges, dui lawyer

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.

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