Mount Pleasant South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog

Refusing a breath test in South Caroina

When South Carolina residents obtain their driver's licenses, they agree to submit to a test of their breath, blood or urine when ordered to do so by a police officer. However, the implied consent law only goes into effect when the motorist has been placed under arrest. This means that police officers must have probable cause to believe that motorists are operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol before they can demand that they submit to chemical tests.

Drivers who feel that the results of a breath test would give prosecutors the evidence they need to secure a drunk driving conviction may be tempted to refuse to submit to testing. While a refusal would deny prosecutors valuable evidence, it would not make proving such charges in court impossible. In many situations, the refusal could be almost as incriminating as the toxicology evidence would have been. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath test also face mandatory sanctions. This means drivers who refuse a breath test and are then convicted of DUI are punished twice.

Facebook messages can be proof, but it's not simple

You tend to do most of your communication online. You don't really like to make phone calls. You don't mind text messages, but it's often a lot faster to write on your computer, instead. As a result, you end up sending a lot of Facebook messages.

What you start wondering is if you're potentially leaving a "paper" trail that could come up if you find yourself accused of a crime. Say the authorities accuse you of attempting to sell drugs when they find a large amount of drugs and money in your car during a traffic stop. Can they use your online messages as evidence in court?

Learn more about zero-tolerance laws

Young drivers in South Carolina should be aware of the legal standards that are set in place for individuals who drive under the influence of alcohol when they are 21 years of age and younger. It is illegal for individuals 21 years of age and under to purchase and possess alcohol.

In most states, motorists who drive with a .08 or higher blood alcohol concentration level could be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Zero-tolerance laws make it so that individuals under the age of 21 could also be charged with a criminal DUI offense if they have a blood alcohol concentration level of as little as .02 depending on the state. This means that drinking even the weakest beer or smallest glass of wine and then driving could lead someone under the age of 21 being charged with a DUI.

Alternative DUI penalties

All South Carolina residents who are convicted of driving under the influence are required by state law to participate in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, which is provided by the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. The program provides educational and treatment services that are designed to improve road safety in South Carolina by helping DUI offenders to address their alcohol or drug problems.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety will not restore the driving privileges of an individual convicted of DUI until they have completed the ADSAP program. However, those convicted of their first drunk driving offense or their first DUI in 10 years may apply for a provisional driver's license that will allow them to drive while they participate in the program. Individuals who are not eligible for a provisional license could still qualify for a restricted driver's license.

Steps states can take to minimize drunk driving

South Carolina and other states have a variety of strategies that they can use to curb drunk driving. For instance, the law states that drivers cannot operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. If a driver is under 21, he or she cannot operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .02% or higher. The use of ignition interlock devices can make it harder for an individual to start a car after consuming alcohol.

If a person registers a .02% BAC or higher after blowing into the device, the vehicle is unlikely to start. Sobriety checkpoints could also be used to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. Typically, checkpoints are conducted in areas that are known to have a high number of impaired drivers. They may also be used during holidays or other times when drunk driving may be more likely to occur.

Take these steps if you're pulled over for suspicion of DUI

Police in the state of South Carolina are cracking down on driving under the influence. If you find yourself pulled over for suspicion of DUI, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be put under arrest. However, since this is a possibility, it's critical to know what you should and shouldn't do.

Here are five things you must do if pulled over for suspicion of DUI:

  • Pull over right away: Don't attempt to evade police in any way. Once you see the lights in your mirror, put on your hazard lights and pull to safety. This typically means the shoulder of the road or a parking lot.
  • Remain polite: Even if you're 100 percent sober, acting in a disrespectful manner won't do you any good. Remain polite and respectful so that you don't give police another reason to think you're under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Don't say too much: You can invoke your Fifth Amendment Rights, which means you can remain silent. Saying too much if you're pulled over by police can result in sharing information that's used against you at a later date.
  • Don't make up a story: There's nothing you can say to an officer to stop them from arresting you if you're under the influence. Making up a story, such as telling the officer you haven't had a drink since yesterday, isn't likely to help. It's more likely to raise suspicions.
  • Stay calm: If you're put under arrest, stay calm and remain quiet. The more you resist, the more likely it is that you'll face additional charges. You're best off complying with the officer, remaining quiet and taking mental notes of everything that's happening to you.

The truth about being charged with a felony

Individuals who are convicted of a felony in South Carolina could lose their right to vote or the ability to buy or own a weapon. Traditionally, the public has viewed felons as bad or dangerous people who deserve to lose their rights. While this may be true in some cases, there are many easy ways to commit a felony in the United States.

For example, protesting tax laws could theoretically be a felony even if you have the right to speak out against government policy. Something as mundane as calling into work sick when you're not actually sick could also result in a felony charge. There is also the possibility that a person was convicted of a crime that he or she didn't commit. Currently, an estimated 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated, but up to 10% of those individuals could have been wrongfully convicted.

Do wet and dry college campuses affect crime rates?

Many colleges across the country are known for having a party atmosphere. Some have tried to curtail this by putting restrictions on alcoholic beverages on campus. A study of four-year colleges that enroll at least 10,000 students shows that the vast majority of colleges are still wet campuses, meaning that alcoholic beverages are allowed. Around 73% of these non-profit schools were wet.

The impact of alcohol allowed on campus and crimes is one interesting point in the study. The Clery Act requires that schools that accept student aid programs from the federal government submit statistics on crime. Putting these crime statistics on campus together paints the picture about the impact alcohol has in certain areas.

The elements of a criminal trial

If an individual is taken into custody for DUI in South Carolina or any other state, he or she may be put on trial. A trial is where the government attempts to prove that a person committed a crime while the defendant attempts to dispute the allegation. Typically, cases are heard and decided by a jury, so the first step in a criminal case is to choose the people who will serve as jurors.

The case begins with an opening statement from the prosecutor. Once the prosecution has finished laying out its case to the jury, the defense may then make its opening statement. However, this may be delayed until after the prosecution rests its case. After witnesses have been called and cross-examined, each side will make a closing argument before the case is handed over to the jury. The closing argument is the final chance for each side to sway the jury to agree with its assessment of the matter.

Understanding DUI penalties in South Carolina

South Carolina motorists who have been charged with drunk driving may face serious penalties. A conviction can lead to people losing their driver's licenses. Even a temporary suspension can mean that people may lose their jobs, and they may find themselves unable to keep up with school or family obligations. It is important to fully understand the laws in order for people to best protect themselves. When people are convicted of a first offense, they could be fined up to $992 and face a six-month suspension of their license. For later offenses, the penalties become even more severe.

A second drunk driving offense could lead to a fine of up to $10,744 with all penalties and assessments included, suspension of a driver's license for one year and imprisonment from five days to one full year. A third offense means at least a two-year license suspension, imprisonment and even steeper fines. If the third offense occurs within five years of the first offense, the license is suspended for four years; in addition, if the driver was the owner of the vehicle, it will be confiscated by the police. Later offenses lead to a permanent revocation of a driver's license and a prison term of at least one year.

    1. Charleston County | Bar Association
    2. South Carolina Association of criminal Defense Lawyers
    3. Rated By Super Lawyers | Rising Stars | Cameron J.Blazer | Superlawyers.com
    4. South Carolina Bar
    5. Liberty Fellowship
    1. Aspen Global Leadership Network | The Aspen Institute
    2. Justice 360 | Advancing Equality in the justice System
    3. Jefferson Awards Foundation
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