It can be as simple and unassuming as this scenario.  You are out for an average night on the town, and you are leaving the restaurant where you just had dinner and drinks.  Then, all of a sudden, you see flashing blue lights and a police car in your rearview mirror.  At this point, you pull over and are asked to perform a field sobriety test.  You fail.  The officer arrests you and takes you to jail where you are asked to blow in the breathalyzer. You thought this sort of thing could never happen to you, but it did and it does.  You have been arrested for DUI.

Are a DUI and a DWI the Same Thing in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the offense has always been termed as “DUI.”  In some other states, they refer to the same offense differently where it is called a “DWI,” which stands for Driving While Intoxicated.

There are a number of different types of DUI charges that someone could be charged with. Some of the most common charges include driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while impaired by drugs.

Driving under the influence of drugs is also a common way that someone is arrested for driving under the influence. To be convicted of this offense, law enforcement typically needs to prove that you were impaired at the time of your arrest. This means that they need to find drugs in your system, and it does not matter how much of the drug was consumed.

It is important to speak to an attorney if you have been arrested for any type of DUI charge.  An experience attorney, like Nate Fata, can help you understand your legal options and make sure that you get the best possible outcome in court.

Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in South Carolina?

While the DUI charging document is a blue traffic ticket, a DUI is still considered a criminal offense and can carry jail time if you are convicted of the DUI.

Not only is DUI a criminal offense, there are also “administrative” penalties that can be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. Administrative penalties can include suspension of your driver’s license or your privilege to drive in South Carolina if you are licensed in another state at the time of your arrest.  Administrative penalties can also include the required attachment of a alcohol ignition interlock device, the completion of ADSAP (Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program), as well as, other costly and time-consuming requirements.

Is a DUI Charge in South Carolina a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

It could be both.  It really depends on the DUI offense you are charged with.

First, second, and third DUI offenses are misdemeanors, carrying fines ranging from $400 up to $10,000, jail time from anywhere to 48 hours to five years, and a license suspension period ranging from six months to four years depending on the level of the DUI conviction.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in South Carolina? 

In South Carolina, DUI checkpoints are legal, even though, they have been outlawed in twelve other states.

The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution restricts any police intervention with a citizen’s movement that constitutes a “seizure.”  A license checkpoint is a “seizure” of a citizen driving the public roads.  The 4th Amendment mandates that seizures must be “reasonable.”  What is considered “reasonable” has not been defined by the appellate courts over the years.

With that said, the police cannot set up a roadblock anywhere they like.  They must establish that there is a basis for a roadblock that is related to traffic safety.  A fundamental way to accomplish this is for the police to is to rely upon traffic safety statistics which establish a logical basis for the motoring public to be seized.  For example, if records establish that a high number of accidents are associated with a particular intersection, then that location may warrant a need for enhanced traffic enforcement in the form of a roadblock.

A subsequent or fourth DUI is a felony, which upon conviction, can carry a minimum of one to seven years of prison time and a permanent loss of driving privileges.

As you very well may know, it is unconstitutional for police to randomly stop cars.  However, if a roadblock is set up, each car in the path of travel must be stopped and driving license and documents checked.  The courts have ruled that it would be unreasonable for police to only stop cars they subjectively conclude the need to be checked.  This would afford the police a discretion that the constitution does not authorize or provide.

Records of all roadblock activity must be kept to determine if the site location was supported by existing statistics, and a supervisor must be present to oversee the roadblock operation.

The location of a roadblock must be publicly announced by the law enforcement agency performing the roadblock.  It has been stated that this defeats the purpose of the roadblock by advising the public where not to drive.  Others argue that by publishing this information is a reminder that the officers are out and policing the roads so rather than deciding not to drive to that location after consuming alcohol, a driver may elect to not drink and drive at all for fear of repercussion.

Officers are trained to look for objective clues of impairment which collectively form reasonable suspicion of the driver’s impairment and that further investigation is warranted at the roadblock.  Only when facts derived from the field investigation form probable cause may a law enforcement officer arrest a driver for DUI.

Will a DUI Charge Affect My Car Insurance in South Carolina?

If you are charged with a DUI, most likely your insurance will be affected.  You will be required to have SR-22 for a time period during and after your license suspension.  This type of insurance is known as “assigned risk.”  It is normally much more costly than ordinary insurance coverage.

Do DUI Charges Transfer From State to State?

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact is an agreement between states to exchange driver information when the home state driver is charged and convicted of a motor vehicle related offense in another state, and South Carolina is a member.  The state DMV may apply penalties to the driver if they receive information that one of its drivers has been convicted of a traffic offense in a different state.  This all depends on the laws of the driver’s home state.

Are DUI Charges Public Record in South Carolina?

When you get a DUI it is public record and many times it is published for profit on the internet.  Despite the presumption of innocence, the publishing of such infractions is perfectly legal.  The arrest and jailing of citizens must be made public record in this country.

How Long Will a DUI Charge Stay on My Record in South Carolina?

In the state of South Carolina, the criminal conviction of a DUI will remain on your record forever.  Also, the South Carolina DMV provides driver’s records for past three years up to ten years.

Can You Expunge a DUI Charge in South Carolina?

A DUI charge not resulting in a conviction can be expunged.  However, a DUI conviction in South Carolina cannot be expunged.  DUI first offense charges that end in dismissal or acquittal, South Carolina law requires the clerk of court to prepare and process an expungement order.

Can DUI Charges Be Reduced to Reckless Driving or Some Other Lesser Offense in South Carolina?

A DUI can be dismissed and a plea for a lesser charge can be entered for some other traffic offense if supported by the facts of the case.  What is considered a win in a DUI defense case varies from case to case and client to client, but our goal, at Fata Law Firm, is to get you the best outcome for your case that is legally possible.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle a DUI Charge in South Carolina?

It is wise that anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense to retain an attorney, and Nate Fata has the experience to fight your DUI charges and win. Being charged with a DUI comes with harsh penalties and fines that are worth fighting to avoid.  The aftermath caused from a DUI conviction can be devastating and life changing.  Not only do you face harsh penalties and fines, but you could lose your license, your job, or even face jail time, depending on the circumstances.

Attorney Nate Fata Is Here to Help You With Your DUI Charges in South Carolina

A DUI charge is much more than just getting a normal traffic ticket and can be potentially life changing.  Should you or someone you know find themselves in the situation where they have been charged with driving under the influence, contact us at Fata Law Firm to discuss your options and how we can best help you.  Contact us at 843-238-2676 or to schedule an appointment with your DUI charges in Myrtle Beach, Surfside, Conway, Murrells Inlet, Garden City, or Pawleys Island.