SC NC DUI/DUAC Lawyer – Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) vs. DUI

South Carolina, for whatever reason, has two statutes that the state can use to charge you for essentially the same offense: driving drunk.  The first and more traditional is DUI, driving under the influence.  The second is somewhat newfangled and is symptomatic of the trend of trying to convict as many people as possible, with as little process as possible, of driving drunk: DUAC, driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration.

DUI requires as an element that the driver actually have been impaired, that question goes to the jury.  DUI does require some evidence that the defendant have been under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, but there needn’t be a blood alcohol concentration test of any kind.  Like impairment, the question of whether the impairment was caused by drugs or alcohol goes to the jury.

DUAC merely requires that the blood alcohol concentration of the defendant have been 0.08% or above and that he or she have been operating a motor vehicle.  As such, DUAC requires that there have been some sort of BAC test like a breathalyzer test.

Serious DUI/DUAC Attorneys

If you have been charged with any drunk driving offense, contact the attorneys at Reeves, Aiken & HightowerBrowse our website, and compare our credentials with those of attorneys at any other firm.  Then, call us at 877-374-5999 or contact us at this link for a private consultation.

SC DUI Lawyers – What is a Felony DUI?

For anyone who has been charged with driving under the influence, we know that charge alone is seriou. But, a felony DUI charge is even more so.  Not only has the person charged allegedly caused serious harm or the death of another, but they also face much steeper penalties, including possible mandatory prison time.

What is Felony DUI?

A felony DUI charge in South Carolina requires that the person charged have:

  • Operated a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both, and
  • Did something else against the law, whether traffic law or duties imposed by the court, for example, failed to maintain lane or acted negligently, and
  • Proximately causes great bodily injury or death to a person other than himself, including passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists

The first element sounds like DUI, but unlike DUI, the statute does not mention that the drugs or alcohol must impair the ability of the driver to drive safely.

The second element allows individuals who are under the influence, but do nothing wrong, to escape a serious felony DUI charge.  For example, a driver who was under the influence, who otherwise was following the law, and killed a driver who was turned left in front of him, probably would be able to escape a Felony DUI charge. Why?  They breached no legal duty.  The other driver was entirely at fault.

The third element contains two problems: Proximate causation and “great bodily injury.”  What in the world do either of those phrases mean?

Proximate causation basically means legal causation, not factual causation, but causation that will be recognized by law for a certain purpose.  Here, you can imagine that

  • if one driver breached a legal duty like crossing the white line on a two lane road, and
  • that action spooked a driver in the oncoming lane, and
  • that driver hit a tree and died,

the driver crossing the white line could have actually caused the death, but even if that person was under the influence, we don’t want to charge them with felony DUI.  However, if someone dies of complications within 3 years of a “great bodily injury” as defined below, the death may meet proximate causation.

Great bodily injury for the purpose of felony DUI is an injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”  SC Code § 56-5-2945.

Penalties

The penalties for conviction of a felony DUI depend on whether there was a great bodily injury or a death.

For causing great bodily injury:

  • 30 days to 15 years mandatory imprisonment, in state or federal prison, not local jail,
  • $5,000 to $10,100 mandatory fine,
  • driver’s license is suspended for the term of imprisonment plus three years.

For causing death:

  • 1 year to 25 years mandatory imprisonment, in state or federal prison, not local jail,
  • $10,100 to $25,100 mandatory fine, and
  • driver’s license is suspended for the term of imprisonment plus five years.

As you can see judges have very little latitude in felony DUI for mercy.

Another small caveat: the local prosecutor can choose to charge someone who can otherwise be charged with felony DUI with involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide.

Serious Attorneys for a Serious Charge

If you have been charged with felony DUI, contact the attorneys at Reeves, Aiken & HightowerBrowse our website, and compare our credentials with those of attorneys at any other firm.  Then, call us at 877-374-5999 or contact us at this link for a private consultation.

(more…)

SC DUI Lawyer – DUI Penalties in South Carolina

As DUI law has developed in South Carolina and as public opinion has increasingly turned against individuals who find themselves with DUI charges, the penalties for DUI convictions and consequently DUI pleas have gotten stricter.  The state legislature has taken increasing amounts of discretion away from judges to sentence based on the merits in each case and the character and individual traits of each defendant.

Today, there is mandatory minimum sentencing for every DUI based on past DUIs and the blood alcohol content at the time of arrest.

BAC: Less than 0.10% 0.10%-0.15% 0.16% or more
First Offense
  • 6 month license suspension
  • $400 Fine
  • 48 hours jail or public service up  to 30 days jail
  • 6 month license suspension
  • $500 Fine
  • 72 hours jail or public service up to 30 days jail
  • 6 month license suspension
  • $1,000 Fine
  • Minimum 30 days jail up to 90 days jail
Second Offense
  • 1 year  License suspension
  • $2,100-$5,100 Fine
  • Jail – 5 days to 1 year
  • 1 year  license suspension
  • $2,500-$5,500 Fine
  • Jail – 30 days to 2 years
  • 1 year  license suspension
  • $3,500-$6,500 Fine
  • Jail – 90 days to 3 years
Third Offense
  • 2 year  license suspension
  • $3,800-$6,300 Fine
  • Jail – 60 days to 3 years
  • 2 year  license suspension
  • $5,000-$7,500 Fine
  • Jail – 90 days to 4 years
  • 2 year  license suspension
  • $7,500-$10,000 Fine
  • Jail – 6 months to 5 years
Fourth  (and later) Offense
  • Permanent license revocation
  • Jail – 1 to 5 years
  • Permanent license revocation
  • Jail – 2 to 6 years
  • Permanent license revocation
  • Jail – 3 to 7 years

 

For first time DUI’s, the court may offer public service instead of jail time, but the court cannot make you accept public service instead of jail.  Also, for first time DUI’s, the legislature has directed the courts to allow those convicted of DUI to serve their public service or jail time in such a way as to avoid interfering with employment, such as on the weekends.

In second and subsequent DUI offenses, the court will order that an ignition interlock device be installed in the defendant’s car at the defendant’s expense, upon conviction.

In addition to these minimum sentences, prosecutors are not allowed to bargain DUIs down to a wet reckless charge, which is allowed in some states.  These sort of charges involve acknowledging that alcohol was involved, but in a charge less serious than DUI but more serious than reckless driving.  Plea bargaining is still possible, but on different terms than in other states.

Keep in mind also that the DMV is required to collect and publish the names of all those whose licenses have been revoked due to DUI convictions.

The DUI attorneys of Reeves Aiken & Hightower LLP stand ready to fight for you if you have been charged with DUI in SC. We encourage you to visit our website at www.rjrlaw.com and compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other firm. You can then call us toll-free at 877-374-5999 or contact us by email for a private, confidential consultation to review your particular case.

SC DUI Attorney – What Juries Really “See” When They “Hear” DUI

This recent article shows how dangerous truly impaired drivers can be. Here, the DUI suspect lost control of his vehicle, striking a marked police car first and then a building. High speed in conjunction with drunk driving can be fatal and cause serious damage to innocent drivers and pedestrians. Sadly, anyone charged, whether guilty or not, is associated with the pictures below. The public now has an implanted image of what “drunk drivers” can do, and frankly, it scares all of us.

As a DUI criminal defense attorney with Reeves, Aiken & Hightower LLP, the first thing that has to be done at trial is to “reset” the jury to understand that our clients are “presumed innocent” and that cases like the one below almost never go to trial. Instead, our clients are everyday people who have had a drink with dinner, or a beer with friend, but are perfectly safe to drive. Because of news stories like the one below, police are aggressively arresting virtually anyone who has alcohol on their breath when stopped for any reason. At checkpoints, they may say they are looking for license and registration infractions, but they are really there to arrest “drunk drivers.” You can be certain that if they smell “alcohol on or about (your) person,” you are going to spend the night in jail no matter what you do or say at that point. If you decline to participate in field sobriety tests, you will be arrested. If you attempt these awkward tests, you will invariably fail and be put in the back of the police car. You get the idea.

If arrested for a SC DUI, it is critical that you retain an experienced DUI attorney who focuses their criminal practice on this specialized area. We would also recommend that you look at firms with former DUI prosecutors as these individuals have unique insights on how to address the various legal issues raised. At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower LLP, our criminal defense lawyers are seasoned trial attorneys. With over 70 years combined litigation experience. Please visit our website www.rjrlaw.com to find out more about our lawyers. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other law firm. Then call us at 877-374-5999 for a confidential consultation of your case.

Recent DUI crashes lead to weekend checkpoints

Posted: Jan 27, 2012 6:11 PM ESTUpdated: Feb 06, 2012 6:11 PM EST
Car crashed into Greek Boys restaurant (Source: CPD)Car crashed into Greek Boys restaurant (Source: CPD)

Police car from crash at Sumter and Hampton streets (Source: CPD)Police car from crash at Sumter and Hampton streets (Source: CPD)

Police car from crash at Sumter and Hampton streets (Source: CPD)Police car from crash at Sumter and Hampton streets (Source: CPD)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Columbia-area police agencies are teaming up to operate DUI safety checkpoints this weekend following a string of recent DUI-related crashes.

Officers from Columbia Police, University of South Carolina Police Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol  will focus their efforts on areas throughout Columbia where DUI related collisions and offenses have occurred.  Those areas include the Vista, Five Points, and along main roadways like Assembly Street, Elmwood Avenue, Gervais Street, Huger Street and Blossom Street.

The checkpoints run from Friday night through Sunday night.

Officers will be looking for impaired drivers, drivers license violations and checking child safety seats.

Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott says in the past several months, five Columbia police officers have been hit by drunk drivers.

Two crashes occurred last weekend. Fort Jackson Military Police Officer Joshua Waters was charged with DUI and open container after investigators say he crashed into a police cruiser at Sumter and Hampton Streets in downtown Columbia Saturday morning.  After hitting the police car, investigators say Waters’ vehicle crashed into the Greek Boys Restaurant on Sumter Street.

And Sunday, a suspected drunk driver crashed into a police officer at the intersection of Gervais and Washington Streets.

The officers involved in those wrecks were treated at local hospitals.  None of them sustained serious injuries.

Copyright 2012 WIS.  All rights reserved.


SC DUI Attorney – Ignition Interlock Coming – For All of Us

The SC DUI Attorneys at Reeves, Aiken and Hightower LLP strongly support safe and responsible driving, of course. However, as lawyers and citizens, we are concerned about the continuing and ongoing erosion of our freedoms. The bad acts of a few should not force punishment for the rest of us. Ignition interlock devices have inherent flaws and are subject to false positive readings. In that event, you cannot get home or go to work. Additionally, the added costs of such a device is significant. Cars are already too expensive. Rather than requiring everyone to “prove” they are safe to drive, why don’t we hold those who are truly impaired accountable.

The clients we represent are good people who have been falsely accused of “drunk driving.” They went out to dinner with their spouse or had a beer with friends and ended up in jail for the night because they had “alcohol on their breath.” If you have been wrongfully charged with a SC DUI, take a look at our website www.rjrlaw.com. We welcome the opportunity to review your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other firm. Then, call us at 877-374-5999 for a private consultation.

After the Party, a Car That Takes Away Your Keys

By Joseph B. White

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. In the future, your car could be that friend.

The technology exists to have a car refuse to start when it senses the driver has been drinking. But as Joseph White reports on Lunch Break, it’s very controversial.

Researchers working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are developing technology that could be built into a car’s dashboard or controls to check a driver’s blood-alcohol level and refuse to start if above the legal limit. The effort, which began in 2008, is officially known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS for short.

“We’ve made more progress, faster, than we expected,” says Rob Strassburger, vice president for vehicle safety at the alliance. Contributing to advances is national-security research aimed at developing remote sensors that can detect biological or other chemical agents. Also, researchers say that fingertip sensors used in hospitals to monitor blood-sugar levels and other physical indicators are useful in detecting blood-alcohol levels, too.

EYESROAD

In an effort to reach high-risk drivers, groups aiming to stop drunk driving often take cars involved in fatal crashes to schools. Shown here, a 2010 display at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md.

It sounds futuristic and it will likely be years—eight to 10 by Mr. Strassburger’s estimate—before cars and trucks with built-in blood-alcohol detectors are for sale. The next phase, additional years off, is a commercially produced vehicle with the technology to drive a tipsy owner home autonomously.

Whether drivers will be comfortable with cars that could potentially override their commands is another matter. Already, a restaurant group is lobbying against the technology.

The arguments for pursuing cars that can detect drunk drivers revolve around the stubborn persistence of alcohol as a factor in fatal car crashes. In 1982, about 49% of drivers killed in car wrecks had blood-alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher. By 1994, that percentage had dropped to about 33%, where it has since plateaued, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in a study of federal data from 1982 to 2010.

Technology to disable a car if the driver is intoxicated already exists, but it is currently used primarily as a punitive measure for people caught with blood-alcohol levels over the legal limit.

EYESROAD

About 16 states now require people convicted of driving with blood-alcohol levels over the 0.08 legal limit to install so-called alcohol interlocks in their vehicles. These clunky systems require drivers to blow into a tube to verify that they are sober before the car can start. Nobody in the auto industry is proposing to offer such systems as factory-installed equipment. Instead, sensors would be unobtrusive, perhaps embedded in a starter button or a shift lever.

Enthusiasm for the potential of alcohol-detection technology is reflected in a proposed federal transportation bill. In it is a measure that would give the NHTSA’s alcohol-detector program $24 million over two years—a sum that could allow the agency by 2013 to equip a fleet of 100 or more cars with prototypes of two types of alcohol detectors. One would measure the alcohol in the driver’s breath. The other would use touch technology to take a reading from the driver’s skin, likely the fingertip used to activate a starter button.

The counter argument, at this early stage, is coming most loudly from the organization that represents the restaurant industry in Washington, D.C. “It is going to create a zero tolerance environment,” says Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

EYESROAD-JUMP

Associated Press

BREATH TEST. About 16 states now require people convicted of driving with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit to install alcohol interlocks in their vehicles, like the one above. To use it, the driver blows into a tube to verify sobriety before the car can start. Researchers are developing prototypes of two built-in systems. One would measure the alcohol in the driver’s breath. The other would take a reading from the driver’s skin, likely the fingertip.

“We believe there’s nothing unsafe or illegal about having a glass of wine with dinner and driving home,” Ms. Longwell says. Her group’s concern is that onboard alcohol detectors will have to be calibrated to shut down the car at levels well below 0.08, to avoid the liability risk of a driver getting in the car at just below the limit, and then exceeding the limit during the drive home as the last drink enters the bloodstream.

In a Sept. 30, 2011, letter to the American Beverage Institute, the program manager for the alcohol-detection research program said the systems would not be set to prevent operation of the car at levels below 0.08, and would provide for a retest in the case a driver is locked out.

Ultimately, the future of onboard alcohol detectors will come down to convenience and culture.

NHTSA officials have said they have no plans to mandate onboard alcohol-detection systems in cars. The agency got a black eye in the 1970s when it mandated the installation of so-called seat belt interlocks that made it impossible to start a car until the driver fastened the seat belt. The uproar from consumers moved Congress to pass legislation forbidding seat-belt interlocks that stands to this day.

Still, the alcohol-detection system is a further example of how technology promises to change the relationship people have with their automobiles. If auto makers and safety regulators do attempt to encourage adoption of these systems, they’ll need to design them so that consumers don’t just want to rip them out. It could be that the first factory-installed alcohol interlocks are ordered by corporate or rental-fleet operators—who can make acceptance of the technology a condition of using the vehicle.

“We have to develop a technology that lives in a car for 20 years and works flawlessly,” Mr. Strassburger says. “That’s a pretty high bar.”