Getting charged with DUI doesn’t mean getting convicted. If you’re facing charges, our Columbia DUI defense lawyers may assist you. We help people fight drunk driving charges and reduce the consequences for their life.
When you’re charged with drunk driving, you have important rights. Shealey Law Firm can help you exercise those rights. Contact us now for a consultation with our Columbia DUI defense lawyers.
Committed Columbia DUI Lawyers
Learning that you’re facing a charge of drunk driving isn’t easy, but you have the right to present a defense. Our DUI lawyers are aggressive and experienced litigators. We help each person navigate the situation they are facing with legal representation throughout their case.
To see how we can help you, contact the Shealey Law Firm Columbia DUI lawyers for a personal evaluation. We can start your representation immediately.
DUI Charges in South Carolina
There are two ways to be a drunk driver in South Carolina. First, a person is a drunk driver if they operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, to the point that their faculties are materially and appreciably impaired. A person may be under the influence because of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
Second, a person may be a drunk driver if their bodily alcohol content at the time of driving is .08 or higher. The penalties are the same whether the person is DUI because their faculties are impaired or because they are over the legal limit.
Penalties for DUI in South Carolina
1st DUI offense:
- Jail time: Up to 30 days
- Maximum fine: $400
- Assessment and fees: Yes
- License suspension: 6 months
- Vehicle confiscation: No
2nd DUI offense:
- Jail time: 5 days to 1 year
- Maximum fine: $5,100
- Assessment and fees: Yes
- License suspension: 1 year
- Vehicle confiscation: No
3rd DUI offense:
- Jail time: 60 days to 3 years
- Maximum fine: $6,300
- Assessment and fees: Yes
- License suspension: 2 years, or 4 years if it’s your 3rd offense in five years
- Vehicle confiscation: Yes, if it’s your 3rd offense within 10 years of your first offense
In addition, a DUI conviction can impact you in ways that aren’t listed in the law. It may impact your employment options, insurance rates, immigration status and reputation in the community.
Hearing these potential penalties can be disheartening. It can make you feel worried. However, there are things that you can do to minimize the potential consequences and ultimately the penalties that you may face for DUI. You’re presumed not guilty. There are no penalties if you are not convicted.
At Shealey Law Firm, we can help you question all aspects of the charges against you and create a defense strategy. We are experienced trial lawyers, and we can represent you throughout the entire case. Contact us for more information. We can begin representing you today.
Defenses Against DUI Charges
Being charged with DUI doesn’t mean you’re guilty. DUI is a common police investigation. However, the investigation is technical and scientific. Inexperience, carelessness or simply wanting to make an arrest may cause a police officer to make mistakes.
You have the right to present any defense that is applicable to you. Here are common defenses to DUI:
- Your bodily alcohol content was not .08 or higher.
- You were not under the influence.
- There were mistakes in the chemical testing performed, rendering the results unreliable.
- Field sobriety tests were not performed, or they were performed improperly.
- The police did not have lawful grounds to stop your vehicle.
- You weren’t driving or in control of the vehicle.
- It was an emergency, so you had to drive to avoid greater harm.
- Bodily alcohol content rose between the time of the arrest and chemical testing.
- Police falsified part of the police report, or their testimony is otherwise unreliable.
DUI investigations are more complex than people – including police officers – sometimes realize.
The police cannot simply use any indicators they believe are valid to determine a person’s intoxication. Instead, they must rely on proven indicators. Field sobriety tests are standardized, and a law enforcement officer must perform them in the right way. The Datamaster DMT used to conduct breath testing has standards for proper use including periodic calibration of the machine and observation of the test subject.
Mistakes can render an investigation invalid. As Columbia DUI defense lawyers, we know how to scrutinize law enforcement actions. Our team can appropriately raise these issues as part of your defense strategy.
DUI Defense Lawyer for University of South Carolina Students
We represent University of South Carolina students in DUI defense cases. Having a DUI while you are a student can significantly impact your life. It can be hard to know what to do, if you’re making the correct decisions, and how to approach each step in the case. You don’t have to face this situation alone.
If you are a University of South Carolina student facing a drunk driving charge, or if your child is facing charges, we want to help you. Our compassionate and experienced lawyers can explain what you need to know, guide you and represent you in the process. Our offices are located near the University of South Carolina campus, and we represent students facing drunk driving and other charges.
South Carolina DUI FAQs
Is there a jury trial for DUI in South Carolina?
You have the right to a jury trial for DUI in South Carolina. While you can waive that right, usually, it’s your best option.
What court will hear my Columbia, SC DUI case?
Your Columbia, SC case may be heard in:
- Columbia Municipal Court
- Richland County Circuit Court
- Richland County Magistrate’s Court
- Lexington County Circuit Court
- Lexington County Magistrate’s Court
Multiple courts in the Columbia SC area hear DUI charges, so it’s important to carefully read the information that you’re given. It depends on where the offense occurred and exactly what charges you are facing.
How likely is jail time for a first DUI in South Carolina?
Jail time for a first DUI in South Carolina is more likely if you have a previous criminal history or if an accident occurred. The judge has discretion to order the sentence that they think is appropriate for what happened, up to the maximum potential penalties.
What is the Shealey Law Firm’s record with DUI cases?
While we cannot make promises concerning future case results, we have never lost a DUI trial and strive to represent our DUI clients to the fullest. We have been successful with DUI cases because of our specific knowledge of the unique legal issues and our vast trial experience.
What happens if I am suspected of DUI and I refuse to blow?
If you refuse to blow then your license will be suspended, but the Shealey Law Firm can have you driving again on a Temporary Alcohol License while we challenge the suspension through the Administrative Courts.
What is the major difference between DUI and Felony DUI?
A non-aggravated DUI is one that does not involve major injury, death or a significant history of prior DUIs. A DUI can be upgraded to a felony level if there are prior convictions and/or serious injuries or death involved. A felony level DUI is handled in General Sessions Court, while a non-felony DUI is typically handled in Magistrate Court.
What happens if I am under 21 and get a DUI?
The legal threshold is lower for those under 21 who have been charged with a DUI. Someone under 21 only has to blow .02 to be prosecuted.
Am I able to drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel if I’m over 21?
Yes. South Carolina, contrary to popular belief, is not a strict liability or zero tolerance state. You are lawfully able to consume some alcohol and operate a vehicle.
However, what is criminalized is allowing yourself to become materially and appreciably impaired in violation of our state DUI laws. This is a fairly subjective standard that can be analyzed by law enforcement through roadside standard field sobriety testing and also if you submit a breath sample that results in 0.08 or above.
Do I have the right to remain silent during a DUI stop if I have not yet been arrested or mirandized?
Citizens have the right to remain silent in any criminal investigation, including a DUI investigation. In fact, the SC DUI statute requires that law enforcement advise you of your Miranda rights prior to your arrest while on scene.
Law enforcement’s failure to do so could result in the dismissal of the State’s case against you if properly litigated by an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
Am I in the clear if I blow under 0.08?
Unfortunately, no. As soon as you are arrested for suspicion of DUI, you will be prosecuted no matter what, regardless of what physical evidence will be collected. This is why it is often best to refuse to provide law enforcement any additional samples such as breath test, blood, or urine which could potentially be analyzed and later used against you during prosecution.
Is alcohol the only way for me to be charged with a DUI? Or could I be charged with DUI if I’ve been using drugs?
You can be charged with DUI based on alcohol use, drug use or a combination of both. Also, it is important to note that you can be charged for being under the influence of prescription medication while operating a vehicle if it makes you materially and appreciably impaired. Often, if law enforcement believes you are using drugs, they will ask for a urine or blood sample to confirm impairment.
How can a DUI potentially affect my insurance?
If found guilty, you can be forced to purchase SR-22 insurance as a condition of getting your license restored. This is essentially very expensive insurance that you have to maintain for 3 years after your conviction by law.
How accurate is a field sobriety test? Does it take into consideration any disabilities I may have?
Standardized field sobriety testing is inherently subjective in nature. That is why it is always in your best interest to politely decline this type of testing and consult with an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as you can. Law enforcement is supposed to and is trained to inquire about any injuries or disabilities prior to conducting field sobriety tests. If you disclose an injury or disability, law enforcement is supposed to offer you alternative forms of testing.
Can I get a DUI expunged from my record?
No. Per SC statute, you cannot get this expunged. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney to avoid having a conviction of DUI on your record.
Does it matter how many DUIs I have received in the past?
Every DUI conviction on your record within the last 10 years can be used to enhance your DUI to a more aggravated level with higher penalties. You also may run the risk of being labeled a habitual offender and losing your license for a longer period of time.
Is there potential for me to go to jail after receiving a DUI?
Absolutely. Even if this is your first DUI, you are subject to jail time. The higher the BAC and the more prior DUI convictions you have, the greater length of jail time you may be facing. A conviction under the DUI statute could result in jail time from a minimum of 48 hours all the way up to 7 years if you have the maximum number of qualifying prior convictions.
How soon after receiving a DUI can I drive again?
If you give a breath sample of .15 and above or refuse to blow, your license will be automatically suspended. During that time, a trusted DUI defense attorney can assist you in getting a temporary alcohol license while we litigate your suspension through the Administrative Law Courts.
What kind of tests is the officer allowed to perform to determine if I should receive a DUI?
Law enforcement will usually start with standardized field sobriety tests on the side of the road. This normally includes the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), walk and turn test and the one leg stand test.
Law enforcement may request additional testing to be conducted at the jail such as requests for breath, blood and urine tests. It is always in the client’s best interest to politely decline all testing and contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to handle their case.
Is PTI an option when I have been charged with DUI?
Unfortunately, DUIs are generally excluded as being eligible for Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) pursuant to Solicitor policy.
What indicators would an officer consider in determining whether he/she had reasonable suspicion to pull me over to investigate for DUI?
Usually, law enforcement is looking for an accident, evidence of swerving, difficulty maintaining your lane, speeding, lights not on when they should be or failure to obey standard traffic devices
When would an officer have probable cause to arrest me for DUI?
When an officer pulls you over, they are going to be making observations that, in their totality, would lead the officer to believe you are impaired. Officers typically note one’s physical appearance, such as the smell or presence of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy eyes, disorientation or drowsiness.
What other consequences may I be faced with other than fines or jail time when charged with a DUI 1st offense?
Your driving privileges could be suspended for 6 months upon conviction, you can be required to purchase and maintain expensive SR-22 insurance; you can be required to enroll and successfully complete Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program classes; and if you blow .16 or above then you may have to install an interlock ignition device for a lengthy period of time, installed and monitored by the Office of Probation, Pardon, and Parole.
If the officer takes me to jail to offer me a breath test, will I be released if I blow below the legal limit?
No, unfortunately, even if you blow below the legal limit you will be processed and booked in the jail for a DUI offense per law enforcement protocol. You may be released upon your bond being set before a Magistrate judge.
Consultations Available – Talk to a DUI Defense Lawyer
If you are facing DUI charges in Columbia, SC, we invite you to talk to a DUI defense lawyer at Shealey Law Firm. We work to protect your rights and present an aggressive defense to the charges.
Contact us today to talk to a Columbia DUI defense lawyer. We can represent you starting immediately.