What You Need to Know for Your First Offense DUI in Richland County, South Carolina

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Is this your first DUI? Are you wondering if you should fight it, if you even can?  They took a breathalyzer, right, so what’s the point?  Besides, doesn’t South Carolina have some of the toughest DUI laws in the country because back in 2015 South Carolina ranked at the top of a very ugly list: the worst rate of fatalities due to drinking and driving according to the Centers for Disease Control?

Yes, South Carolina does have one of the toughest DUI and DUI-related laws, and yes, you should fight it, especially if it’s your first offense.  We at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm understand that a first-time offense can be scary and that a conviction can have serious consequences for you.  Rest assured we will do all we can to help you as your advocate.  To avoid or reduce the consequences of your DUI first offense, you should contact our office immediately.

FIRST OFFENSE DUI

If convicted, you could be looking at jail time, penalties and fines, and license suspension.  You may also be sentenced to community service or ordered to attend certain classes.  Much of it depends on the circumstances.

Jail time

For first offense convictions, jail sentences will largely depend on the reading of your blood alcohol content (BAC).  Throughout the United States, 0.08% BAC is the legal limit for the general drinking age population, but you could still be charged with a DUI or other alcohol-related charge if your BAC falls below 0.08% if other circumstances are present.  Additionally, in South Carolina, if you are a commercial driver and carry a CDL license, the BAC legal limit is 0.04%, and for under the age of 21, it’s 0.02% with a zero tolerance policy.

0.08% – 0.10% BAC: Minimum 48 hours but not to exceed 30 days.  Depending on the circumstances, the court may order you to serve a minimum of 48 hours of community service in lieu of the minimum jail sentence.

0.10% – 0.16% BAC: Minimum jail sentence of 72 hours but not to exceed 30 days.  Again, the court may order you to service community service of a minimum of 72 hours in lieu of a jail sentence.

0.1i6% BAC or greater: Minimum jail sentence of 30 days but not to exceed 90 days.  The court may order you to serve 30 days community service in lieu of a jail sentence.

Under all circumstances, we at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm will push for community service over jail time.

Penalties & Fines

We’ve written generally about the costs of DUI charges and convictions in Richland County, South Carolina, and you can read it here.  In sum, your penalties and fines will consist of the following, but read our blog specifically on costs to obtain a better, fuller idea of what all costs may be involved.  Like the jail sentence, if this is your first DUI offense, the basic fines associated with your conviction will depend largely on the BAC level.

0.08% – 0.10% BAC: $400

0.10% – 0.16% BAC: $500

0.16% BAC or greater: $1,000

If convicted, these costs are non-negotiable, and they do not include court costs, completion of terms of sentence, license reinstatement fees and any other additional fees and surcharges.

License Suspension

South Carolina adheres to an implied consent law.  This law states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to think that you are driving under the influence, then you consent – by virtue of possessing a driver license – to a chemical test of your breath or blood.  If drugs are suspected, then a urine test may also be taken.

If you refuse to take a test and it’s your first offense, then there is an automatic 6 month suspension of your license, and the suspension will be put into effect immediately by the officer.  In order to reinstate your license, you must request an Implied Consent Hearing, or Administrative Hearing,  within 30 days from the date of your arrest, or else lose the right to challenge the license suspension.  There is a filing fee of $200 and you will be required to complete the Alcohol & Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) and show proof of SR-22 insurance.

If you took the test, then your license is not automatically suspended, but you will have an administrative hearing because, for first time offenders, there is a mandatory 6 month suspension, but it does not commence until the hearing.  If your case is successfully contested at the administrative hearing, then you may prevent license suspension.

In either case, if your license is suspended, you may apply for a permit that will allow for your to get to work and to your ADSAP classes independently.  In both cases, the administrative hearing for your license has no impact on your first offense DUI charge.

Substance Abuse Program

As mentioned above, in addition to your license suspension, you will be required to attend a state approved ADSAP program.

Ignition Interlock

For first time offenders who had a BAC of 0.15% or greater, an ignition interlock will be required, and depending on other circumstances, your license may be restricted with a special interlock designation.  The ignition interlock system is equipped with a camera and you will be required to use the system for 6 months.

Apart from the ignition interlock being required if you had a 0.15% or greater BAC, you may be eligible to participate as an option in lieu of driver license suspension.

DUI DEFENSES

In Richland County, South Carolina, there are generally no direct defenses to DUI.  That said, an arrest for a DUI does not automatically mean you are or will be found guilty of DUI.  We, at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm approach your DUI case with the assumption that you are innocent.  We investigate the facts of arrest by conducting pre-trial discovery according to South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedures.  Depending on how the police conducted the arrest, it may have a serious impact on the outcome of your case.  In South Carolina, before an officer can arrest you for DUI, he must turn on his camera.  We will have access to that footage along with other reports of the arrest, which we will review thoroughly.

Generally, defense strategies will depend on the technical aspects of the arrest.  Some examples of what we will look for as we build your defense are the following:

  • Was there probable cause or a legal justification for the police to pull you over?  If not, then your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure may have been violated, and thus grounds for dismissal.
  • Which field sobriety tests were administered, and was it/were they administered according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration standards?  If not administered appropriately or if a test was used that is no longer recognized (for example, the alphabet test or counting on fingers test is no longer recognized), then we may be able to invalidate the test(s).
  • Do you have any medical conditions that would in effect render the field sobriety tests as improper?  For example, do you have any condition that makes you jittery, or do you have gastric reflux?
  • Are the breathalyzer machines maintained?  If not, did they produce the right reading?
  • Were there any issues over the blood test, if one was taken?
  • Were you read your Miranda rights at the proper time of your arrest?  Were you advised of implied consent rights verbally or in writing?

Again, these and other facts and issues will be thoroughly investigated and analyzed in order to provide you the best defense possible.  Remember, too, that once convicted of a DUI, any subsequence charges of the same will be harsher.  The important factor of any first offense DUI case is time.  If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Richland County, South Carolina, it is critical that you contact a determined South Carolina DUI defense attorney immediately to start your defense.  Doing so, just may save you a conviction.  Contact the Michael Jeffcoat Firm if you’ve been charged with a first offense DUI in Richland County, South Carolina.

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