A DUI Defense Attorney in Columbia, SC Explains
During a DUI traffic stop, it's natural - and sometimes mandatory - to follow a police officer's lead as they ask questions and give directions. Often enough, though, they're leading you straight into a trap.
There are many situations where you can say "no" to police requests.
Knowing your rights and when you can say no - or nothing at all - during a driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) traffic stop could save you from handing over items or statements that support charges.
South Carolina Impaired Driving Laws
South Carolina has two primary drunk driving charges - Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC).
For a defense attorney, there is a big difference between DUI and DUAC, even though the penalties are the same for either charge.
In a DUI case, the prosecution has to prove that you were driving while impaired, usually by outside substance.
For DUAC, impairment doesn't matter. The charge simply says that you had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08 while driving. Prosecutors often like to use breathalyzer results to win over a jury. A skilled defense attorney must show the proven unreliability of these and other BAC tests.
The penalties for DUI and DUAC convictions are the same. For a first offense conviction, you can be fined up to $1,000, spend 90 days in jail, and lose your license for 6 months. Penalties increase along with the number of offenses.
Your Rights in a DUI Traffic Stop
First, you should know that South Carolina has an "implied consent" law that requires you to submit to a breathalyzer test. However, there is no criminal penalty if you refuse the test. You will almost certainly lose driving privileges for 90-180 days, but this is preferable to handing evidence over to the police.
You have a right to protect your privacy and freedom during a DUI traffic stop.
- You have the right to remain silent. You've probably heard this one before. It's not just something they say on shows and in movies. This is a very important right you will want to invoke. Anything you say can be held against you. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer that. Passengers in your vehicle also have a right to be silent. The right to remain silent extends to making or signing written, audio, or visual statements. If asked to sign something or give your permission to release information about you, say no and ask again to speak with your lawyer.
- You may have the right to leave. In most traffic stop situations, it is a good idea to ask an officer whether you are free to go. Police can only detain you for specific reasons and for a limited time. If they say you are free to go, do so calmly and quickly.
- You have the right NOT to consent to a search of your personal property. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, say "No." While there are exceptions, the police usually need to obtain a warrant to search private property, like your vehicle. If police search your vehicle without your consent or a warrant, it is likely an illegal search. Do not try to physically stop police from searching, even if you believe they are violating your rights. Illegal search and seizures are often fought in court. "Evidence" collected in illegal search and seizures is almost always inadmissible.
- You have a right to speak with an attorney. You may discuss your situation with an attorney before answering any questions beyond the basics - name, address, driver's license, etc. If you are arrested, request to contact your attorney immediately.
It is important to note that there are requests a police officer can make of you with which you should comply. In a DUI stop, the information and access you are required to provide officers include your name, address, and driver's license. You should also know that if an officer asks you to get out of a vehicle, you should do so slowly, calmly, and without reaching for any additional items to take with you.
Fighting South Carolina DUI Charges
If you are in the greater Columbia area and are facing or think you may soon be charged with DUI or DUAC, contact DUI defense attorney Matt Bodman. Our law firm has the experience and knowledge to protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Don't delay. Contact us today to see how we can help you.