York County’s New DUI Enforcement Team

The York County Sheriff’s Office received a $250,701 grant to start a Driving Under the Influence Enforcement Team, officials announced Friday.

The grant money will pay the salaries of two deputies, along with new patrol cars and equipment, according to sheriff’s officials.

The DUI enforcement team will dedicate all of its time to combat drunk driving in York County. The officers on the team will work closely with other agencies in the 16th circuit law enforcement network participating in programs such as “Sober or Slammer” and “The 100 Deadly Days of Summer.” Team members will also spend time educating the public about impaired driving at public events and schools.

With police officers stepping up their enforcement techniques, it is becoming increasingly important for the average citizen charged with DUI to know their rights under the law. Any person under South Carolina law can be charged with a felony DUI, even if such incident is the first DUI offense charged to that person. Under the S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2945, “(A) A person who, while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of alcohol and drugs, drives a motor vehicle and when driving a motor vehicle does any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury or death to a person other than himself, is guilty of the offense of felony driving under the influence and, upon conviction, must be punished.”

The penalties for pleading guilty or being convicted under the felony DUI statute are characterized “(1) by a mandatory fine of not less than five thousand one hundred dollars nor more than ten thousand one hundred dollars and mandatory imprisonment for not less than thirty days nor more than fifteen years when great bodily injury results;(2) by a mandatory fine of not less than ten thousand one hundred dollars nor more than twenty-five thousand one hundred dollars and mandatory imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than twenty-five years when death results. A part of the mandatory sentences required to be imposed by this section must not be suspended, and probation must not be granted for any portion.” Based on the final sentence quoted above in the statute, probation is not even an option for any person convicted or pleading guilty to charges under the felony DUI statute in South Carolina, even persons who are first time offenders of the statute. According to the S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-2945(B), great bodily injury as used in the statute includes “protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Thus, since the common protracted is commonly thought to mean to prolong or draw out an event or incident, loss of life or limb is not a necessary prerequisite for a finding of guilty under the statute. The victim may fully recover from the injuries suffered at the hands of the defendant, but as long as the victim has an injury that will most likely cause him impairment of one of his bodily parts or organs, a defendant can be convicted under this felony DUI statute and would face some type of mandatory incarceration sentence.

Thus, the role of a lawyer becomes most important to those charged under the South Carolina felony DUI statute. Whatever the case may be, and whatever type of “DUI” you have been charged with, contact the law offices of Reeves, Aiken, and Hightower to have your claim evaluated. We are licesnsed in both North and South Carolina, where you can contact us at 704-499-9000 or 877-374-5999 toll-free.

South Carolina Statute 56-5-1900 Affects State DUI Law

There is a new law in South Carolinaregarding driving under the influence charges.  S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1900 states that “a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within the lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”

In State v. Vinson, Mr. Vinson contended that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the police did not have “reasonable articulable suspicion” to justify the traffic stop. State v. Vinson, No. 5044. The police stated that they saw the man veer back and forth from the traffic lines, which along with some other factors justified the stop. Id. Vinson contends the stop was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because, as he states, the officer did not have probable cause based on reasonable articulable suspicion to arrest him. Id.

As stated in State v. Butler, “as a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. The police, however, may also stop and briefly detain a vehicle if they have a reasonable articulable suspicion that the occupants are involved in criminal activity.” State v. Butler, 343 S.C. 198, 202 (2000).  Therefore, in South Carolina, courts look at the reasonableness of the officers’ stop, which is determined by the totality of the circumstances.  Id. The totality of the circumstances approach is utilized by analyzing the circumstances surrounding the actual stop to ascertain whether the stop of a vehicle was reasonable and justified by “reasonable suspicion.” Id.  One of the factors to be determined is whether the vehicle has swerved across the painted lines in the road.

For the Vinson case, the officer determined that in his experience, statistics, the absence of any other traffic on the road, the day of the week, the time of night; coupled with the fact that the driver was crossing over the lines on the road, meant the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, drivers in South Carolina must be wary of S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-1900, because they can be pulled over by the police if the police determine that they have crossed over the white or yellow lines on the road.  No more suspicion is necessary because this statute makes crossing “unsafely” over the lanes a violation.

If you or a loved one has been issued a DUI as a result of this statute, contact the Law Offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower.  We are equipped to handle any kind of DUI case in South Carolina.  You can contact our Baxter Village, South Carolina office at 803-548-4444 or contact us toll-free at 877-374-5999.