While a new MADD SC DUI study supposedly shows conviction rates are too low, is this really news? Rather than look at each case individually, MADD seems to promote only those figures that helps its cause. However, what about the Constitutional rights of the accused? After all, in this age of video everywhere, is it too much to ask police to record a DUI arrest?
So a MADD SC DUI study shows laws are too tough?
Because the State makes the laws, they have all the power, money, and resources. While they try to make it seem fair, it really is not to any individual facing a criminal charge. However, as the burden of proof is always on the State, we should expect more, not less, video in cases. Furthermore, video is everywhere we go recording everything we do now. So when it really matters, we should demand video proof. After all, video protects everyone, not just the police from frivolous lawsuits. But most importantly, given the permanent consequences of a DUI conviction, it protects the individual charged with a serious crime. Rather than focus on conviction rates, let’s focus on whether the police make proper arrests.
So how can video transparency ever be bad?
Because video recording is so pervasive now, why is making sure the police record a DUI arrest even an issue? Rather, South Carolina is the only State that actually has mandatory video laws. Apparently, it is easier to make arrests in the shadows. While that may please groups like MADD, it takes away important protections for anyone stopped by police. Frankly, everyone should feel better with everyone’s conduct recorded. While we fully support and are grateful for the work police do, we believe full transparency is always better. And even if a few manage to “beat the system,” it is better than convicting someone wrongfully accused.
While some will disagree with us, we welcome respectful debate. Seems like these days people cannot disagree without getting ugly. So share your views with us, but please do so with a kind disposition. But most importantly, be safe on the road. Get home to what really matters.
While many criminal lawyers charge, we offer a free consultation. Why? Because we are interviewing for a job. Consequently, we meet with clients at no charge in DUI and DWI cases.
Free Consultation for DUI and DWI
Because DUI defense is serious business, we first have to convince you to hire our firm. So how do we do that? First of all, we go over our professional credentials and DUI experience. Before you can trust our advice, you must first have confidence in what we tell you. Hence we want you to know that we focus our criminal practice on DUI and DWI defense. In addition, we work hard to stay current on effective trial strategies. Of course, every case is different, and DUI defense is very complex. However, this is what we do, and we do it every day.
After we tell you about us, we turn our focus to you and what happened. Because every fact is important, we listen very carefully and make detailed notes. While we see certain patterns in every case, little things can sometimes make a big difference in outcome. As a result, we look for particular facts that favor your case. In addition, we also look for things that are bad and then find a good reason to explain. However, juries don’t seem to focus on every detail. Rather, they decide guilt based on common sense and experience. And we all know what “drunk” or “impaired” looks like and sounds like.
Video Evidence Explained
During our free consultation, we talk about lots of things. But the most important part of DUI is what video evidence is available. While South Carolina requires video evidence, North Carolina does not. However, in either State, juries look hard at how you appear and how you sound. As a result, we focus on every detail but really concentrate on things you do on video. For example, how do you walk normally? Furthermore, how do you sound and stand while on video? While the State prefers to talk about their roadside tests, we talk about your normal behavior. In the end, juries decide on what they see and hear for themselves.
Because we practice DUI defense most every day, it is second nature to our attorneys. However, it is a lot of information to hear, especially for the first time. Try not to worry. After all, that is why you would hire us. Regardless, you are going to know much more about how we do our job by the end of our meeting. Then you will be in a good place to decide who is the best DUI attorney for your case. Call us now and let’s start your defense.
While breath testing is part of every DUI arrest, most don’t know what to expect. As a result, we explain proper breath testing guidelines.
Proper Breath Testing Procedure
Because a BAC level is important to the State, proper breath testing procedure is also important to us. While we question any BAC reading, not following manufacturer’s testing guidelines can suppress the result. Here in South Carolina, we use the DataMaster DMT machine manufactured by National Patent Analytical Systems, Inc. And like most breathalyzers, it is a box containing a computer motherboard and a printer. During testing, breath somehow turns into a number. Just how it becomes a number is something of a mystery that no one can fully explain. But here is what we do know.
In order to get a valid sample, the manufacturer’s manual directs a steady blow of air. In addition, the manual states to not “blow hard.” However, that guideline has changed as being “not helpful.” So what is the proper breath testing procedure now? Rather than guess, we still go with the slow, steady blow. After all, it’s just common sense that forcing additional air under pressure will change the outcome. Furthermore, we are already dealing with very small numbers (0.01). Therefore, any significant change in input could affect output. And that can create reasonable doubt as to the result.
BAC Reading or Video Evidence
Because we trust our own eyes and ears over any machine, we rely on video evidence. In addition, we see too many cases where the client’s behavior on video does not match a high BAC. Rather than just argue the machine, we also focus on how someone looks and sounds. Hence everyone knows how people act when “drunk” or “impaired.” So at trial, we create reasonable doubt when the BAC and video conduct are different. And that’s how juries decide guilt or innocence. Call now and let’s start your defense today. You’re going to feel better after we talk.
Felony DUI Arrest
Being charged with any DUI offense is always serious, and a conviction will result in a permanent criminal record. But, a DUI is a misdemeanor and usually only requires payment of fines, ADSAP, SR-22 insurance, and loss of driving privileges for six (6) months, subject to a provisional license. However, if you are drinking while driving and someone is seriously injured or killed, you can be charged with a felony DUI that could result in years of time in state prison, up to 25 years. No one ever expects something really bad to happen. It is all too possible for an average, law-abiding citizen to find themselves in serious legal trouble from just one bad mistake in judgement. This is why you should never get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. A DUI can be the least of your worries if you become in an accident on the way home, even if someone else hits you. Even if it is a passenger in your car, you could be charged with felony DUI if anyone is seriously injured as a result of an alcohol related accident.
I am reminded of a real case out of Charleston, South Carolina. It involved a young woman who was just starting her life as a Registered Nurse (RN). She had recently married and was beginning her nursing career helping others. After work one afternoon, she and several fellow nurses went out for a drink before heading home. She had only consumed two (2) alcoholic beverages and had a relatively low BAC level. While driving home, she was in a hurry and made the fateful decision to try to pass another car on a curve. As she began her pass, she struck another vehicle head-on and killed several people inside, including a child. She was also very seriously injured but survived the crash. Because she had a blood level of 0.07%, she was charged and plead guilty to felony DUI. She was sentenced to ten (10) years in prison. Her life, while not completely over, was substantially put on hold. Her nursing career was over. Her marriage may not last for the ten years she will be away. All of this pain for a moment of bad judgement. She was a nice girl from a good family. She had never been in any legal trouble before in her life. Now, she will spend years in a women’s prison. She could not believe it. Her husband and family could not believe it either. But it happened to her. And it can happen to anybody. Even you.
Hot Weather and Drinking
Every summer, we notice a sharp increase in DUI arrests throughout South Carolina. While experts may ponder various reasons or scenarios for the increase, the seemingly obvious answer is it gets really hot here. Cold beer just tastes better in hot weather, and there are lots of opportunities to drink when the weather gets warmer. People enjoy going to the beach or lake for the day and getting out of the heat. Additionally, there are more social activities in the summer months, most of which will entail drinking and eating. In Charleston, you have to have beer during a low country boil. Anything less would just not be natural. In Columbia, our “famously hot” capital requires cold drinks just to survive. In Greenville, we have the downtown nightlife and bars and restaurants on the river to enjoy. And in Fort Mill / Rock Hill, we have great outdoor bars with patio areas. We are SC DUI defense attorneys, and like many of our clients, we enjoy summertime drinking activities. Just remember that the police will be out in force looking for those who drink and then get behind the wheel. If you are stopped or come up on a DUI checkpoint and have any scent of alcohol on your breath, you can expect to become the next dui arrest of the night. We are SC DUI attorneys and are here to help you if charged. But, we would rather show you how to avoid a dui arrest in the first place.
This is the best way to avoid a dui arrest after a night on the town or at the beach or lake. Simply have someone else, who has not been drinking, drive everyone home. Your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road is paramount. No one wants truly impaired drivers behind the wheel taking chances with their lives or ours. We are proponents of safe, responsible driving. Of course, most of our clients are persons who have a drink with dinner or a couple of beers with friends. They would never drive if they thought they were unsafe. They are good, hard working people with good jobs and careers. They know the risks and believe they are fine. Nevertheless, if stopped on the way home, they will be asked to perform field sobriety tests and then breath tested. Even if they “blow” below the 0.08% presumptive legal limit, they will still be arrested and spend the night in jail. The only real way to avoid a DUI arrest is to wait until you get home or not drink at all.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
If you have been arrested for a DUI then you have probably been subjected to the DUI Eye Test, more commonly known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). This test is actually one of three (3) standardized tests recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). If properly admistered, many police departments swear by the results and often take the position no other testing is necessary. Nystagmus is an “involuntary jerking” of the eyes which officers claim cannot be “faked” by those individuals who have been drinking or using certain types of drugs. Of course, even NHTSA research has concluded this test is only accurate to a limited degree in the best of conditions. In this article, we show other possible, non-impaired, reasons why some people will have HGN without any relation to alcohol consumption.
In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his or her eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each eye: if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly, if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation, and if the angle of onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center. If, between the two eyes, four or more clues appear, the suspect likely has a BAC of 0.08 or greater. As you’re probably thinking right now, this test is far from being scientifically accurate. As you also guessed, there are many reasons other than alcohol that are medically known to cause this jerk. Many of these medical conditions are listed below. Do any of these apply to you?
- inner ear infection or condition
- irrigating ears with warm or cold water
- streptococcus infection
- natural or induced vertigo
- muscular dystrophy
- multiple sclerosis
- Korchaff’s syndrome
- brain hemorrhage
- motion sickness
- eye strain
- eye muscle fatigue
- atmospheric pressure changes
- excessive caffeine
- excessive nicotine
- aspirin usage
- circadian rhythm changes
- acute head trauma
- chronic head trauma
- certain prescription drugs, tranquilizers, pain medications
- neural disorders of the vestibular apparatus and brain stem
- cerebellum dysfunction
- exposure to solvents, PCBs, dry cleaning fumes, carbon monoxide
- extreme chilling
- eye muscle imbalance
- certain lesions
- continuous movement of the visual field past the eyes
- antihistamine use
As you can now see, there are many reasons for HGN in persons without having consumed any alcohol. There are also improper testing reasons for a false HGN finding that we will show in a subsequent posting. For now, just know that a DUI suspect who “fails” HGN testing may have a number of valid and persuassive defenses at their disposal. And, HGN testing is just one of many factors which can be challenged in a DUI arrest.
Be Safe. Get Home.