Cleary Law LLC

A Brief Timeline Of The DUI Process In South Carolina


All DUI cases are different, but in a typical DUI situation police will pull you over for a traffic-related offense and then question you as to whether you had something to drink. That is how they establish whether they have reasonable suspicion to detain you further and get you to take the field sobriety tests.

They routinely give three standardized field sobriety tests (which you do not have to take and you should not take). These are very subjective and if they are not conducted properly by the officer, they are meaningless. The officer will do the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test where he will supposedly be able to tell if your eye movements indicate impairment. He will also ask you to do the Walk and Turn, where you have to walk on an imaginary line in an unnatural manner. Then there is the One Leg Stand, where you have to stand with your leg above the ground and behave exactly as he instructs. These tests are very difficult for anyone with medical issues, including mild obesity.

If they determine you have made a mistake on these test, law enforcement then will arrest you and should read you your Miranda rights and take you to jail. This is where police will ask you to take the breathalyzer test. No matter what you blow, you will not be “un-arrested.” They may then ask you to take a urine test at a local hospital to be tested for impairing drugs. You may, and SHOULD, refuse to take this test. All of this is videotaped, as is the roadside encounter, and the failure to do so is one of the ways that we can get DUI cases dismissed.

Once you take the breathalyzer, the machine produces a number right away and they take you to the jail. When you get to jail, within a few hours or so, you will go through the bond hearing.

In many cases, you will get a Personal Recognizance Bond, or a PR bond. In any case, the highest bond is going to be the amount of the ticket, which is about $1,000 in an average DUI case. When you leave jail, the police will give you a notice on a blue ticket and this tells you when to go to your next court appearance in a magistrate or municipal court. You need to hire a DUI lawyer before this court date.

When you arrive at court you have the opportunity to plead guilty or ask for a bench or jury trial. You really need to have an attorney by that point and what I usually do is go in and try to talk to the officer and see if we can work something out. If not, then I will ask for a jury trial.

If you do have a jury trial, it is made up of six people from within the community of the magistrate district or town that you were arrested in. We then go through jury selection where the judge can ask questions we have provided. Generally I make sure they are asked whether or not they think buzzed driving equals drunk driving and whether or not they think anybody who has a drink is guilty of a DUI. Additionally, I insure jurors are asked if they have any religious objections to alcohol. This all ends up teaching you a lot about the jury. When you pick a good jury, it determines whether or not you will win a DUI conviction. It can be crucial.

If you are found guilty, the judges routinely give you an option of going to jail for thirty days or paying the fine.

It is hard to say how long these cases take to go to trial. I have had some DUI cases pending for two years. If you end up going to trial, it takes longer because there are scheduling conflicts and that sort of thing. Some cases end pretty quickly, while others are backlogged. In the city of Columbia where I am based, they do not seem to have enough resources. Cases are sitting there for years.

Are There Any Alcohol Restrictions On A DUI Defendant While The Case Is Pending?

Generally, there are not alcohol restrictions on someone while his or her DUI case is pending. However, if your license was suspended because you blew a 0.15% or higher or because you refused to blow, then they will automatically suspend your license. What we do at that point is we administratively appeal that suspension and pending that appeal you get a temporary alcohol restricted license. This will enable you to drive all over the state. Outside of the state, it would depend on that state’s laws. Though this is referred to as a temporary alcohol restricted license, it does not have anything to do with whether you can drink alcohol or not. There is a possibility that a judge in giving a bond could issue a no alcohol condition but that is rare.

How Serious Is A Breath Or A Blood Test Refusal In A DUI Case?

If you refuse a breath, urine, or blood test in a DUI case, your license is going to be temporarily suspended no matter what. However, we can get you a temporary license immediately. I highly recommend that people refuse to take any test. If you do not refuse it, you are giving evidence against yourself and these machines are not infallible. There are many different factors including GERD, acid reflux or other things you may have eaten that can affect the results of the test as well. However, it is very hard to prove your innocence when it comes down to it if you blow a high number on that test. I tell people all the time, “Do not blow!”

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