Sometimes, the police stop people who are complying with the law. Other times, they stop people who are driving drunk. If you got caught driving under the influence in South Carolina, how should you handle your DUI case? Here’s what you need to know:
Just Because You Were Driving Drunk, This Doesn’t Mean the Prosecutor Can Prove It
The first thing you need to know is that just because you were driving drunk, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be found guilty in court. In South Carolina, the prosecutor has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence isn’t there, or if the jury decides that the prosecutor hasn’t done his or her job effectively, you may be able to secure a “Not guilty” verdict despite the facts at hand.
Now, does this mean you should expect to receive a “Not guilty” verdict? Absolutely not. While this may be a realistic possibility, its likelihood depends entirely on the unique circumstances of your case. Determining your chances of walking away from a DUI trial without a conviction will require a thorough assessment of factors such as:
- What evidence did the police collect during your arrest?
- What was your blood alcohol concentration (BAC)?
- Is your BAC reading reliable?
- Were you driving dangerously?
- Is any of the prosecution’s evidence inadmissible due to a violation of your constitutional rights?
These are just examples. To make informed decisions, you need to have a full understanding of how the law applies to your situation, and this means that you should discuss your DUI case with a defense lawyer as soon as possible.
If the Prosecutor Can Prove It, You Will Need to Weigh Your Options
Let’s say you meet with a defense lawyer; and, after reviewing your case, your lawyer determines that the prosecutor’s office has the evidence it needs to convict you. If you got caught driving drunk in South Carolina and the prosecutor can prove it, you will need to weigh the options you have available.
What are your options when there is a good chance you will get convicted if you take your DUI case to trial? Depending on the circumstances of your case, your options may include:
- Pleading to a reduced charge (i.e., reckless driving)
- Entering into a pre-trial diversion program
- Seeking to suppress the government’s evidence based on police or prosecutorial misconduct
What about pleading guilty? Rarely (if ever) is simply pleading guilty your best option. There are several reasons why—which you can read about in our previous article, Should I Plead Guilty to DUI if I was Driving Drunk in South Carolina?
Ignoring Your South Carolina DUI Charge is a Mistake
If you know you are guilty, should you simply accept your fate and move on? This, too, can be an extremely costly mistake. If you ignore your DUI, the judge will almost certainly find you guilty in your absence, and the judge will impose a sentence in line with the maximum penalties permitted under South Carolina law. This means that ignoring your DUI could lead to:
- Fines, assessments, and costs
- Loss of your driver’s license
- Jail time or community service
As noted above, even if you got caught driving drunk, you could have multiple options that will provide a far better outcome than letting the judge find you guilty. If your defense lawyer is able to negotiate a plea deal for a reduced charge, the financial costs of your arrest will go down significantly. If you qualify for one of South Carolina’s pre-trial diversion programs, you may be able to avoid the consequences of a conviction entirely. If the police violated your constitutional rights—or if the prosecutor violates your constitutional rights at any stage during your DUI case—this could entitle you to a dismissal as well.
You Can (and Should) Hire a Defense Lawyer to Protect You
Given that you have options available—and given that you need to make an informed decision about which of these options to pursue—it is important that you hire a defense lawyer to help you. Your lawyer can help you decide how best to approach your case, and then your lawyer can take all necessary legal steps on your behalf. If you qualify for a pre-trial diversion program, your lawyer can help you enroll, and then your lawyer can help ensure that your record is wiped clean once you complete the program successfully.
While you will need to pay for your legal representation, your legal fees will likely be far surpassed by the costs your lawyer helps you avoid. Hiring an experienced DUI defense lawyer is an investment in your future—and it is an investment that is well worth it.
You Should Not Underestimate the Consequences of a DUI Conviction
Finally, as you weigh your options, it is important to make sure you are not underestimating the consequences of a DUI conviction. Between fines, assessments, court costs, and increased insurance premiums, a DUI conviction can easily cost you thousands of dollars. If you lose your job (or become disqualified from desirable job opportunities), it could cost you far more.
A DUI conviction can have a variety of other consequences as well. For example, if you are a licensed professional or a member of the military, it could negatively impact—if not jeopardize—your career. You could also lose access to various other benefits and opportunities; and, if you get another DUI in the future, you will be facing mandatory jail time along with other enhanced penalties.
Discuss Your Case with a Rock Hill, SC DUI Defense Lawyer for Free
If you are facing a DUI charge after driving drunk in South Carolina, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. You should not make any decisions about your case until you speak with a defense lawyer. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Rock Hill, SC DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible, call 803-328-8822 or tell us how we can reach you online now.