Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) is a serious offense. Operating a motor vehicle while impaired puts you, your passengers, and others at risk for injury and death. Despite this, thousands of DUI arrests happen every year.
A DUI arrest is not a conviction. Many of the annual DUI arrests do not lead to convictions or punishments because of the work of our Myrtle Beach DUI attorneys. We can ensure that you are not wrongfully accused of a DUI offense and make sure that the court hears your side of the story. Though drunk driving is a serious offense in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we can make sure that the law remains fair and just.
Do not try to contest a DUI defense alone. Individuals who attempt criminal defense without an attorney often lose their case and must face the strict DUI punishments outlined by Myrtle Beach law. Contact our team at Axelrod & Associates for help with your case.
If you have been charged with DUI in Myrtle Beach, SC, your first call should be to your DUI attorney on the Axelrod team at 843-353-3449 for a free consultation to find out what your options are, what defenses your potential defenses are, and how to keep a DUI off your record if possible.
Our DUI defense lawyers have years of experience representing clients charged with DUI-related offenses, getting DUIs dismissed for our clients, and trying DUIs to juries.
SC DUI laws are among the most complex in the state, and your DUI attorney on the Axelrod team keeps up with the changing DUI laws and regularly attends training in DUI defense and trial practice to help you get the best possible resolution in your case.
What does the state have to prove to convict a person of a DUI-related offense in SC?
SC’s DUI laws can be found at SC Code Section 56-5-2930. The elements that the state must prove to convict a person of DUI are:
You were driving. If the officer did not see you behind the wheel, there must be another witness or substantial circumstantial evidence that can place you behind the wheel.
Some other states have “operating” under the influence statutes that make it a crime to simply sit behind the wheel if the ignition is on or even if you just turn on a radio or the car’s heater. SC’s statute is different – it requires driving, which means you must be behind the wheel while the vehicle is in motion.
You must be intoxicated while driving. Intoxication refers to any type of drug, alcohol, or combination of drugs and alcohol – liquor, beer, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, prescription medications taken as recommended, or sleep medicine, it doesn’t matter.
Your level of intoxication does matter, however.
Your “faculties to drive a motor vehicle” must be “materially and appreciably impaired.” “Zero tolerance” is not the law in SC, and “buzzed driving” is not drunk driving – these are both incorrect and misleading statements of the law in SC that you may see in SCHP commercials or on billboards.
Also, it is not illegal to drink and drive in SC. It is illegal to drink and drive when your faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.
What does that mean? If jurors hear that you took the breathalyzer and the result was .08 or greater, the judge will instruct them that there is an “inference” that you were DUI based on the Datamaster result. They won’t automatically find you guilty, though – you can still present evidence to show that you were not intoxicated to the extent that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
The officer or prosecutor will also present other evidence of intoxication, including the officer’s or other witness’ observations, the officer’s testimony about any roadside field sobriety tests that were given, and any videos of your performance on the roadside and in the Datamaster room.
DUAC is SC’s “per se” DUI law.
SC Code Section 56-5-2933 says that it is a crime “to drive a motor vehicle within this State [with an] alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more.” This means that 1) there must be a breathalyzer, urinalysis, or blood test result, and 2) the state only has to prove that the result was .08 or greater, although you can still present evidence to show that you were not intoxicated or that the test results were inaccurate.
Felony DUI is when there is an accident while someone is driving while intoxicated, and someone is either seriously injured or killed as a result of the accident. The elements that the state must prove include:
The person was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,
While driving a motor vehicle,
They committed “any act forbidden by law or neglect[ed] any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle” – meaning they negligently caused the accident, and
Their negligence caused either great bodily injury or death to another person.
Felony DUIs are aggressively prosecuted in our state, and a conviction usually means prison time. Depending on the facts of your case, you may want a DUI defense lawyer who has:
The potential penalties for felony DUI are more severe than the penalties for an “ordinary” DUI or DUAC – a felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury carries a minimum of 30 days and as much as 15 years in prison. A felony DUI resulting in death carries a minimum of one year and as much as 25 years in prison.
The potential penalties for a DUI conviction in SC depend on whether you have prior convictions for DUI or DUAC within the last ten years, whether you took the breathalyzer, and the breathalyzer results.
The table below shows the potential jail time for a DUI or DUAC conviction – note that there are mandatory minimum sentences at each level – for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th offenses based on the breathalyzer result (no breathalyzer result = < .10%).
|DUI or DUAC 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offense||BAC Level||Felony or Misdemeanor||Penalty|
|1st Offense||< .10%||misdemeanor||48 hours to 30 days|
|1st Offense||.10-.15%||misdemeanor||72 hours to 30 days|
|1st Offense||>.15%||misdemeanor||30 to 90 days|
|2nd Offense||<.10%||misdemeanor||5 days to 1 year|
|2nd Offense||.10-.15%||misdemeanor||30 days to 2 years|
|2nd Offense||>.15%||misdemeanor||90 days to 3 years|
|3rd Offense||<.10%||misdemeanor||60 days to 3 years|
|3rd Offense||.10-.15%||misdemeanor||90 days to 4 years|
|3rd Offense||>.15%||misdemeanor||6 months to 5 years|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||<.10%||felony||1-5 years|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||.10-.15%||felony||2-6 years|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||>.15%||felony||3-7 years|
In addition to the potential for jail time and mandatory minimum sentences, a DUI conviction can result in:
DUI convictions, like most traffic offenses in SC, cannot be expunged from your record and they do not “drop off” your record.
The only way to avoid a permanent criminal record for drunk driving is to fight the charges and get a dismissal, a plea to a lesser traffic offense, or an acquittal at trial.
You have the right to refuse the breathalyzer test in SC, and, in most cases, you probably should refuse the breath test.
If you do refuse the breath test, though, your license will immediately be suspended, you will have to enroll in the ADSAP program, and you may have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle before you can drive again.
If you take the test, and the result is .15% or greater, your license will still be suspended, you will have to enroll in the ADSAP program, and you may have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle before you can drive again.
DUI Implied Consent Hearings IN SC
You have 30 days to request an administrative hearing to “undo” the implied consent suspension. Once we request an implied consent hearing, you can go to the DMV and get a temporary license that allows you to drive until the administrative hearing.
At the hearing, we can argue that:
If the hearing officer agrees, your license is restored to you – the “suspension is rescinded.”
If the officer does not appear at the hearing (or if the officer declines to offer testimony), your license is restored to you.
If you do not request a hearing or if the hearing officer upholds the suspension, you will then need to enroll in ADSAP and possibly install an IID before you can drive again.
Implied consent hearings are heard in the “administrative court,” and they are separate from your DUI charges in the criminal court.
If you win your implied consent hearing, that does not mean you have won your DUI case – your DUI charges are still pending in the criminal court and we still need to work on dismissal, negotiating a plea, or trial prep for the DUI charges.
Similarly, if you lose your implied consent hearing or do not request one, the penalties are cumulative – if you are also convicted of DUI in the criminal case, there will be an additional suspension and IID requirements as well as potential jail time and fines.
In South Carolina, attorney fees for a DUI case vary widely depending on various factors. For instance, whether this is a first time DUI, whether there was an accident, and whether someone was hurt could affect the fee structure. Before you hire an attorney, it is important to discuss the fee structure with them. This ensures that you have consistent legal representation throughout your case.
Legally speaking, you do not need an attorney for a DUI charge in South Carolina. However, you will almost certainly be convicted of the crime without legal representation. DUIs are “wobbler” offenses, meaning that they can be either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the situation. If you wish to avoid a misdemeanor or felony charge on your record, you should seek the help of an experienced South Carolina DUI attorney. Our team at Axelrod & Associates is here to help.
There are several ways to have a DUI case dismissed. One of them is to prove that the officer who arrested you did not follow the law when performing the arrest. South Carolina has specific body cam and videotape laws for arrests, so if the officer did not follow that procedure, then the case could be dropped. Officers can also make errors when administering the breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, which