Consequences of a DUI Conviction
The consequences of a first offense DUI conviction range from steep fines, potential jail of up to 30 days, mandatory participation in alcohol classes, loss of your driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record that cannot be expunged.
What Does It Mean to Be Driving Under the Influence?
An arrest for DUI in South Carolina does not mean that you can’t drink and drive. Contrary to popular belief through the use of police television advertising, DUI does not mean you cannot have any alcoholic beverage and then drive. Rather, the legal standard is that you have consumed alcohol or a drug that has “materially and appreciably” impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle properly.
What exactly does it mean to be “materially and appreciably impaired”? There’s no definition other than what the language states but typically police and prosecutors will use your ability, or lack thereof, to operate your vehicle in a safe manner, your performance on the field sobriety test, how you appear, how you stand when talking to police, and whether your speech appears to be slurred.
What Can a South Carolina DUI Attorney Do to Help?
In South Carolina there are a number of criminal procedures that police must follow in order for the evidence in your case to be admissible against you. There is a legal requirement that all DUI arrests be video recorded and if the police fail to do so or if the audio is missing from the video recording then the case may be dismissed. This is covered in South Carolina’s statue 56-5-2953 which requires:
- Video recording to begin at the activation of police blue lights;
- Any field sobriety tests given.
- Include the arrest of a person; and
- Recording of the person being informed of their Miranda Warnings.
- This video recording requirements also extends to the breath test procedure as well.
- A person must be informed on video that they are being video recorded (not a requirement for the arrest);
- That the person has the right to refuse the breath test;
- Include the person taking or refusing the breath test;
- Include the person’s conduct for the required 20 minute wait period.
The 20 minute wait period has been derived in South Carolina to eliminate the potential for any alcohol residue that may be left in a person’s mouth from having just consumed an alcoholic beverage and providing an inaccurate breath sample.
And just like the roadside video recording, the breath test must contain the entire process including audio or that will be inadmissible evidence against you that could result in your case being thrown out.
There is also a time limit on when evidence against you must be collected.
For example, the police must obtain a breath sample from you within two hours of the arrest or the results are inadmissible against you, even if they show you were well above the legal limit. This is often a defense to your charge as the time of arrest must be documented both through written reports and through the video recording equipment.
If police want to take a blood sample from you they must do this within three hours of the arrest or that will also be inadmissible against you.
Police must also administer the field sobriety test in a proscribed manner or the validity of that test will be compromised. A failure to follow the correct procedure can result in the case being dismissed. The field sobriety test is standard nationwide. the three tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand. During these tests the officer will score your performance based on there observations. However, because there is a video recording requirement your lawyer will get to review your sobriety test and can make an independent evaluation as well. This is why it is vital to obtain a lawyer that is trained in DUI procedures and familiar with South Carolina’s DUI laws because a poor field sobriety performance or breath test does not necessarily mean it is going to be evidence against you.
Consult with a Charleston DUI lawyer when you have been arrested for DUI. You need the trusted experience of a criminal defense lawyer that will fight to protect your rights. It’s vital that your attorney collects all the evidence against you and then reviews it to make sure the police followed the correct procedures and if they did not, your chances of getting the charge reduce or thrown out increase.