Can you beat a DUI charge in SC?
If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI, you might be feeling hopeless and a bit lost. If convicted, you could go to jail, get hit with large fines, lose your driver’s license, and suffer a host of other penalties and consequences that follow a DUI conviction.
But how can you beat a DUI?
You may have defenses that you are not aware of, and all may not be lost. If you have been charged with DUI, call an experienced DUI defense lawyer now.
Fighting Your DUI Charge in South Carolina
Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may be able to:
- Get your DUI charges dismissed,
- Show that the officer did not follow the law during your arrest and breath test procedure,
- Get your breathalyzer results or blood test results suppressed, or
- Win your case at trial based on the state’s failure to prove each element of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt.
Can You Beat a DUI Charge? How to Get a DUI Dismissed.
How do you beat a DUI charge?
Using the information gathered during your attorney’s independent investigation of your case and the discovery materials obtained from your prosecutor, your DUI defense lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed based on:
- A failure to prove the elements of DUI,
- The officer’s failure to follow the mandatory videotape law, or
- A lack of probable cause for the traffic stop or the arrest.
Elements of DUI in SC
The prosecutor must prove each element of the DUI charges beyond any reasonable doubt, including that:
- You were driving,
- You were intoxicated while you were driving, and
- You were intoxicated to the extent that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
If each of these elements is not proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the jury in your case will find that you are not guilty. If the prosecutor recognizes that they will not be able to prove each element beyond any reasonable doubt, they have an ethical obligation to dismiss your case before trial.
SC’s Mandatory DUI Videotape Laws
SC Code § 56-5-2953 requires the arresting officer and the Datamaster operator (often the same officer) to record your conduct at both the traffic stop and in the Datamaster room.
During the traffic stop, the video must begin recording no later than the activation of the blue lights, and it must show:
- All field sobriety tests that are given, including the person’s feet and legs on the walk-and-turn test and the one-legged-stand test,
- The person’s arrest, and
- The officer reading Miranda rights to the person.
In the Datamaster room, the video must include the entire breath test procedure, whether the person took the test or refused it, including:
- The person taking the test or the person refusing the test,
- The actions of the Datamaster operator as they are giving the test,
- The Datamaster operator informing the person that they are being recorded, and
- The person’s conduct during the 20-minute observation period before the test is offered.
What happens if the officer did not follow the mandatory videotape requirements?
If the officer provides a valid affidavit, the court may excuse the failure to provide a complete video and the case may proceed to trial. A valid affidavit must state that:
- The video equipment was inoperable, reasonable efforts were made to maintain the equipment, and there was no other operable breath test site in the county, or
- It was impossible to record because of a need for emergency medical attention or other exigent circumstances.
If the officer does not provide a valid affidavit, the remedy for the officer’s failure to provide a complete video is dismissal of your DUI charges (see City of Rock Hill v. Suchenski).
State v. Taylor: Dismissal is No Longer the Remedy for Miranda Violations Under Suchenski
On February 23, 2022, the SC Supreme Court held in State v. Taylor that:
- The video recording at the incident site must “show” the officer reading Miranda rights to the defendant – it is not enough that the reading of MIranda rights are “heard,” because the statute specifically uses the word “show,” and
- Despite the clear language of the statute and the Supreme Court’s prior holdings since Suchenski, per se dismissal of the DUI charges is no longer the proper remedy for a Miranda violation in a DUI case. “[S]tatements made by the suspect during custodial interrogation are to be considered given under the cloud of a Miranda violation,” and, therefore, suppression of any statements made in violation of MIranda is the proper remedy.
The Court’s holding in Taylor is a significant departure from prior case law. For now, however, dismissal of the DUI charges is still the appropriate remedy for other violations of SC’s mandatory videotape law.
You can also beat DUI charges when there was no probable cause for the traffic stop or the DUI arrest.
If there was no probable cause for the initial traffic stop, then all evidence found as a result of the traffic stop (including FSTs, breathalyzer results, and statements made by the defendant) should be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree, and the case should be dismissed.
If there was no probable cause for the arrest (no alcohol test results for a DUAC charge or conclusive evidence that you were not driving, for example) then the case should be dismissed before the trial begins.
How Can You Fight DUI Charges in SC? Get Breathalyzer Results Suppressed.
What if the officer provided a complete video and there was probable cause for the arrest, but the officer did not follow SLED policy and procedure during the breath test or collection of your blood sample?
What if your attorney can show through SLED’s records that there was a problem with the machine that you were tested on, like an expired simulator solution or repeated radio interference with the test results?
The remedy for failure to provide a complete videotape is dismissal because the statute and the SC Supreme Court say that the remedy is dismissal. The remedy for other violations like an officer’s failure to follow SLED policy and procedure is not necessarily a dismissal, but it could result in suppression of the breathalyzer results or blood test results.
What Happens if Key Evidence is Suppressed?
When key evidence is suppressed, your case may be dismissed before trial.
The prosecutor is not required to dismiss your case, however. In many cases, the state can still prove the elements of DUI without a breathalyzer result, relying on testimony from the arresting officer, video of your field sobriety tests, or testimony from other witnesses at the scene.
Even if the state could still prove their case, it may be more difficult for them to prove the elements of DUI, and, in many cases, they will offer a reduced offense or a rewrite of your ticket to a non-DUI traffic offense in exchange for a plea before trial.
Questions About How to Beat a DUI in SC?
DUI lawyer Kent Collins will investigate your charges, answer your questions, and begin investigating your case right away to work on getting your case dismissed and getting your license restored if you also have an implied consent violation.
Get in touch with Kent by phone at 803-808-0905 or use this form to reach him online to schedule your in-person consultation.