South Carolina DUI Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) in South Carolina, you need an experienced South Carolina DUI Lawyer who will fight to protect your rights. Being charged with DUI or DUAC in South Carolina can be frightening and confusing.
South Carolina’s DUI statute provides that it is illegal for a person to drive a motor vehicle in the State if that person’s ability to operate his or her vehicle is “materially and appreciably impaired.” In order to obtain a conviction for DUI, the state would have to prove that person’s impairment beyond a reasonable doubt. The state will rely heavily on the arresting officer’s observations at the time of the traffic stop or arrest. The arresting officer may testify that he smelled alcohol on the person’s breath. The officer may testify that he observed the person to be slurring his or her words, or that his or her eyes appear bloodshot or “glassy.” These observations may be enough for an officer to arrest a person and charge him or her with DUI.
Once a person is placed under arrest and charged with DUI, the officer may transport the person to the jail or local police department and offer a breath test. In South Carolina, we have “implied consent” laws, which means that by driving on the roads, it is implied that a person has already consented to proving a breath, blood or urine sample to a law enforcement officer upon request. If upon request a person refuses to provide a sample, the person’s driving privileges may be suspended. If the person agrees to provide a sample and the result of the test is a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or more, a person could instead be charged with Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC). If a person provides a sample and the result of the test is below .08 percent, this does not mean the person will not be charged with DUI. The state may use a test result below .08 to prove impairment. The DUI Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can give you more information about Implied Consent laws, DUI and DUAC charges in South Carolina. The South Carolina DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC, handle DUI and DUAC charges, practicing in courts throughout South Carolina. We provide an aggressive and proactive defense to every client we represent.
If you are charged with any crime, including DUI or DUAC, you are innocent until proven guilty, which is a right guaranteed by our constitution. It is the state’s burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. For experienced criminal defense attorneys who will fight for you and protect your rights at every stage of your DUI or DUAC case, contact the South Carolina DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today. We will use every resource at our disposal to help you get the best possible outcome in your DUI or DUAC case.
We will initiate a private investigation into the allegations against you, examine every piece of evidence in your case, and interview expert witnesses to strengthen your position and mount a solid defense. We offer a free consultation to discuss your arrest, possible defenses, and what you may be facing. Call our South Carolina DUI Attorneys today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800
What To Do After You Get Charged With A DUI in South Carolina
Imagine that you are driving home from a night out with friends when you see blue lights behind you. You pull over in a safe location, and the officer approaches your vehicle. You hand him your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance when the question comes…”How much have you had to drink tonight?”
Has this ever been the case for you or someone you know? Being suspected of DUI can be a frightening experience, from the field sobriety tests to the breath test, to the possible suspension of your license. The most important thing to do is to call a lawyer right away. Contacting a qualified South Carolina DUI Lawyer can help you navigate a DUI case.
The Initial Traffic Stop
The scenario described above is similar to the type of traffic stop that you may experience. An officer may pull you over for failing to maintain your lane, not using a turn signal, speeding, failing to stop at a stoplight, or swerving. No matter what the initial probable cause for the stop is, if the officer smells alcohol, it is very likely the driver will be asked to step out of the car to perform a series of tests.
The officer may not smell alcohol but may suspect you are driving impaired by a substance other than alcohol, such as prescription or OTC medication, or illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, or methamphetamine.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are performed roadside during a traffic stop when an officer suspects you of driving under the influence. These tests provide “clues” of impairment. If you show a sufficient number of “clues” indicating impairment, you may be arrested and charged with DUI.
“I don’t understand why the officer arrested me—I passed all of his tests!”
Contrary to popular belief, the ability to walk in a straight line or stand on one foot without stumbling or falling over just won’t cut it when it comes to the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) that law enforcement officers administer to drivers who are under suspicion of DUI.
Law enforcement officers use three standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) to detect impaired driving: (1) The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, (2) the Walk and Turn test, and (3) the One Leg Stand test. Officers are trained to look for specific “clues” of impairment during the administration of each of these tests. It is helpful to gain an understanding of how each test is administered and what the performance expectations are in each.
The HGN Test
What is HGN? Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or “HGN” is an involuntary jerking of the eye as it gazes towards the side. This jerking becomes noticeable when a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol. As a person’s blood alcohol concentration rises, the eyes will begin to jerk sooner as they move from side to side.
How does the HGN test work? In administering this test, an officer asks the subject to follow a stimulus (usually the officer’s finger or a pen) as the officer moves the stimulus from side to side within her field of vision. The officer will instruct the subject not to move her head while following the stimulus with her eyes.
How is the HGN test scored? During this test, the officer looks for six distinct “clues” to determine whether or not the subject is impaired. First, the officer will check the subject’s eyes for smooth pursuit—does the subject’s eye move from side to side in a smooth or jerky motion? An impaired person will demonstrate a lack of smooth pursuit as she moves her eyes from side to side. Second, the officer will check for “distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation.” A person has distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation when her eye jerks distinctly when it moves to one side as far as possible and is kept at that position for several seconds. Third, the officer will check for the “onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.” If a person’s eye begins to jerk prior to a 45 degree angle as it moves to the side, she has the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees. The officer will test for these three clues in each eye, for a total of six possible clues. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that research shows that if four or more clues are evident, it is likely that the subject’s blood alcohol concentration is above a .10.
The Walk and Turn Test (WAT)
How does the Walk and Turn test work? This test has two stages: the instructional stage and the walking stage. During the instructional stage, the subject is asked to stand with her feet in a heel-to-toe position and keep her arms at her sides while listening to the officer’s instructions. The officer asks the subject to do this so that her attention will be divided between the balancing task (maintaining the position described above) and the information processing task (listening to and remembering the officer’s instructions). While the subject is standing heel-to-toe, with her left foot on the line and her right foot on the line in front of her left foot with the heel of her right foot against the toe of her left foot, and with her arms at her sides, the officer will instruct her to not begin the test until she is told to do so. He will ask her if she understands. The officer will instruct the subject to take 9 heel-to-toe steps on an imaginary line. The officer will demonstrate proper steps. The officer instructs the subject to turn in a very specific way—by keeping her front foot on the line, and turning by taking a series of small steps with the other foot. The officer will demonstrate this turn. The officer instructs the subject to begin, and reminds her to keep her hands at her sides, count her steps out loud, look at her feet while counting, not raise her arms up from her sides, and not stop once she begins. The officer will then instruct the subject to begin and count her first step from the heel-to-toe position as “one.” The subject’s performance is the walking stage.
How is the WAT test scored? Like in the HGN test discussed above, the officer is looking for distinct “clues” of impairment. The WAT test has eight distinct clues. First, the officer will look to see if the subject is able to keep balance while listening to the instructions. If the subject cannot maintain the heel-to-toe position during the instruction stage, this is a “clue.” Second, the officer will look to see if the subject begins the test before the instructions are finished. If the subject begins before being told to do so, this is a “clue.” Third, the officer will look to see if the subject stops while she is walking. If the person stops for several seconds during the test, this is a “clue.” Fourth, the officer will look to see if the subject fails to touch her heel to her toe with each step. If the subject leaves more than one-half inch between her heel and her toe on any step, this is a “clue.” Fifth, the officer will look to see if the subject steps off of the imaginary line upon which she is walking. If she steps so that one of her feet is entirely off of the line, this is a “clue.” Sixth, the officer will look to see if the subject is using her arms to balance while walking. If she raises one or both of her arms more than 6 inches from her side while walking, this is a “clue.” Seventh, the officer will look to see if the subject turns improperly. As mentioned above, a proper turn is quite unnatural and somewhat complicated—the subject must leave her front foot on the line while using her back foot to take a series of small steps to turn. If she pivots or spins around, this is a “clue.” Finally, the officer will look to see if the subject takes an incorrect number of steps. If she takes fewer or more than nine steps, this is a “clue.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that research shows that if just two or more clues are evident, or the subject fails to complete this test, it is likely that the subject’s blood alcohol concentration is above a .10.
The One Leg Stand test (OLS)
How does the One Leg Stand test work? When administering this test, the officer will instruct the subject to stand with her feet together and her arms down at her sides. The officer will then demonstrate the correct position. The officer will instruct the subject not to start the test until he tells her to do so. The officer will ask the subject if she understands the instructions thus far. The officer will then proceed to verbally explain the test requirements while also giving a physical demonstration. The officer will instruct the subject that when he tells her to begin, she should raise one leg (it does not matter which leg) until her foot is 6 inches above the ground when raised parallel. He will instruct the subject to keep her arms straight and her hands at her sides while counting out loud in the following manner: “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three…” The officer will instruct the subject to keep her eyes on her raised foot during this test. The test typically lasts for 30 seconds.
How is the One Leg Stand test scored? Like in the other two standardized tests, the officer is looking for distinct “clues” of impairment. The OLS test has four total clues. First, the officer will look to see if the subject sways while balancing. Swaying is a “clue” of impairment. Second, the officer will look to see if the subject uses her arms for balance while performing this test. Using one’s arms for balance constitutes a “clue” of impairment. Third, the officer will look to see if the subject is able to keep one foot off the ground without hopping on the other foot in an attempt to maintain balance. Hopping while performing the test is considered a “clue.” Finally, the officer will look to see if the subject is able to maintain the one-leg stand position without putting the other foot down one or more times during a 30 second count. If the subject puts her foot down during the test it is considered a “clue.” If two or more clues are present, or the subject fails to complete the test, the NHTSA states that there “is a good chance the [person’s] blood alcohol concentration is above .10.”
As you can see, it is not necessary for a person under suspicion of DUI to stumble or fall over while performing field sobriety tests. The clues demonstrated during the HGN test are involuntary. Many individuals who are arrested for DUI do not understand that just because they followed instructions by not moving their heads during this test does not mean that they performed well. Simply failing to keep position or pivoting while turning during the Walk and Turn test can trigger enough clues to cause the arresting officer to believe you are impaired. Putting your foot down or hopping during the One Leg Stand test can trigger the same suspicions.
The bottom line is that law enforcement officers are trained to detect very specific clues during the administration of these tests. These clues are not necessarily what the average citizen would consider evidence of impairment. Officers use these tests, together with their other observations about a person’s driving, appearance and behavior, to determine whether he or she should be arrested for DUI.
The Breath Test (Datamaster DMT)
Once you are arrested under suspicion of DUI, you will be taken to jail and offered an opportunity to provide a breath sample.
If you provide a breath sample that is below a .15, you will be able to keep your license for the time, but could still lose your license if you are convicted of the DUI. If you provide a breath sample of .15 or higher, your license will be suspended for six months. You have the right to refuse to provide a breath sample. However, your refusal will result in the suspension of your license for six months. This suspension would be in addition to any suspension you might incur if convicted in a court of the DUI charge.
If you blow above .15 or do not provide a sample, you can request an administrative hearing (also known as an Implied Consent Hearing) to challenge the license suspension. The request for a hearing will toll the suspension period until an order is entered after the administrative hearing is held at the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. Once a hearing is held, the suspension will either be rescinded or affirmed. If revoked, you will be eligible to reinstate your license at that time.
If affirmed, you must then serve the remainder of the suspension period previously tolled by your request for a hearing. You only have 30 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing. If you fail to request this hearing, you forfeit the right to challenge your suspension. The experienced South Carolina DUI lawyers at the Strom Law Firm can assist you through this process.
The Penalties And Consequences
If you are convicted of a DUI in South Carolina, you may face several penalties, including jail time, fines, license suspensions, and other collateral consequences, such as increased auto insurance premiums. For example, if you are convicted of a DUI 1st offense, you face up to 30 days in jail or a fine of $400 plus court costs. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for six months.
You will need to enroll in ADSAP within 30 days of conviction and have your insurance company file a form SR-22 for 36 months. These penalties only increase with subsequent DUI convictions. For instance, with any DUI 2nd or above conviction, you may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle along with extended periods of the penalties described above.
Common South Carolina DUI FAQs
Should I consent to a field sobriety test?
You have the right to refuse to submit to any testing the law enforcement officer requests. You can refuse to perform the field sobriety tests, but this will not prevent you from possibly being arrested for a DUI offense. You can also refuse to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample (as discussed above), but you may have your license suspended for doing so. You should seek the advice of an experienced South Carolina DUI Lawyer.
Should I take a breath test?
If you refuse to submit a breath sample, your license will be suspended for 6 months. You have 30 days to request an administrative hearing. This request is accomplished by filling out the back of the Notice of Suspension form and turning it into the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings Officer with a $200 fee. Once you do this, the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings will email you a date for your administrative hearing. This form also goes to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. You will be notified of your eligibility to apply for a Temporary Alcohol License (TAL), and you will then be able to drive legally within the state of South Carolina.
I was arrested for DUI in South Carolina, but I had not been drinking at all. Will I be able to beat it?
According to the South Carolina DUI statute, it is unlawful for a person to drive while under the influence of alcohol, any other drug, or a combination of other drugs or substances, which can cause impairment to the extent that their faculties to drive a vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired. Not only is alcohol one of the substances listed, but this could include medications that have been mixed with alcohol or other substances, or can include driving while under the influence of illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.
If a law enforcement officer believes you are driving impaired, he or she may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Once he or she determines you are impaired, you will be asked for a breath sample. If the breath sample is refused or the sample provides a very low reading, the law enforcement officer may ask that you provide a urine or blood sample at the local hospital.
If you are arrested for DUI, you should contact a DUI lawyer immediately. The earlier we start working on your case, the better we will be able to fight the DUI charges against you. Contact the DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm today at (803) 252-4800 for a free consultation.
This is my first South Carolina DUI charge, and I have never been arrested before. Does this matter?
While having a clean criminal history is always a positive, there is no option for Pretrial Diversion or PTI in a DUI case. The most efficient way to obtain the best result in your case is to contact a qualified South Carolina DUI attorney.
How Long Does a South Carolina DUI Stay on Your Record?
No, a DUI conviction can never be removed from your record through an expungement. This is one of the most devastating aspects of being convicted of a DUI in South Carolina. Contact the Strom Law Firm today if you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI.
How Much Does a South Carolina DUI Lawyer Cost?
In addition to any fees associated with requesting your administrative hearing, obtaining your Temporary Alcohol License (TAL), or other collateral costs associated with a DUI arrest, you also want to be sure you hire an attorney to advocate for you throughout the process. The experienced DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm are happy to work with you to make your DUI representation affordable. We offer flexible payment plans so that you can relax knowing your case is being handled by a competent and compassionate team of lawyers who will fight for you at every stage of your case.
What is ADSAP?
ADSAP stands for Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and is a statutorily-mandated alcohol class offered through DAODAS. Individuals convicted of DUI or DUAC are required to enroll in ADSAP within 30 days from the date of the conviction. The initial assessment and enrollment cost $500, and the program will cost up to $2,000 for individualized treatment services. However, if you are unable to pay the costs for treatment, they do allow the completion of 50 hours of community service in lieu of payment.
The time to complete the program varies as each case is handled on an individual basis. Those convicted of a DUI offense will not be eligible for a provisional license or to have their regular license reinstated until they can show proof of application or completion of the ADSAP program to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In terms of the administrative suspensions for the refusal to provide a breath sample or providing a breath sample that requires the suspension of a driver’s license, a person must only show proof of enrollment into ADSAP in order to have their driving privileges reinstated. You must submit this to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 30 days of the issuance of an unfavorable order from the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.
What is SR-22?
SR-22 is a form and not a type of insurance. This form proves the driver has the required liability amounts to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Form SR-22 is required for persons convicted of a DUI, DUAC, or a 2nd Reckless Driving conviction within five years. You are required to have the SR-22 for three years. Having an SR-22 requirement may cause your insurance premiums to increase significantly.
What is an IID (Ignition Interlock Device), and do I have to install one after a DUI conviction?
The Ignition Interlock Device is a breath test mechanism attached to your vehicle’s motor, which will only allow the car to start once you provide a breath sample below a certain threshold. The device is also set up to periodically require you to breathe again to prevent others from blowing in the device for you.
If you do not submit to the test, the event will be logged in the IID’s memory, and alarms will go off until you stop the car. The device should be installed in all vehicles that you drive. An IID is not required for every DUI conviction. The experienced South Carolina DUI attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can advise you on whether an IID is required in your case.
Contact the South Carolina DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm today
The DUI Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm are well-equipped to handle the ins and outs of a DUI or DUAC charge. We are well-versed in the aspects required to defend these charges and are aware of the rules that law enforcement officers must follow in order to be successful in their pursuit of a conviction. Contact the Strom Law Firm today at (803) 252-4800 for your free consultation.