Typically, the police officer will pull over a driver for one of three reasons: (1) reasonable suspicion the driver is engaged in unlawful activity, such as a traffic violation or DUI; (2) direct observation of a traffic violation; or (3) use of a DUI roadblock or checkpoint. Regardless of the reason that you are stopped, the officer will initially ask you questions which include a request for your driver's license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Generally, our Myrtle Beach law firm advises people to answer these preliminary questions and provide the requested documents. However you have the right to remain silent and should decline to answer questions like:
- Have you been drinking?
- Where are you coming from?
- When was the last time you had a beer?
- How many drinks have you had tonight?
DUI penalties can be severe so in order to provide basic civil protection to the driver, South Carolina DUI laws state that drivers have the right not to answer these types of questions which serve two separate and equally unfavorable goals (needless to say, the services of a DWI attorney may soon be needed). The officer is engaging in a soft form of interrogation to elicit incriminating responses and attempting to observe the driver for indications of physical or mental impairment, such as red watery eyes, alcohol on his or her breath, slurred speech, and/or impaired coordination. Incriminating answers and the observations of the officer will be used to initiate a full scale DUI investigation. Admittedly, the officer might arrest you if you refuse to cooperate, but you will have limited the evidence that can be used to justify the arrest and that can be used against you at trial.Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests & Portable Breath Test
The officer will attempt to engage you in a conversation to obtain sufficient evidence to justify a request that you participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs), which typically includes a roadside breath test. South Carolina DUI law does not impose any duty on motorists to perform these tests, which are difficult even when a person is sober. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only approved three standardized FSTs (referred to as "SFSTs"): (1) walk and turn; (2) one-leg stand; and (3) horizontal gaze nystagmus. Although the officer might ask you to perform other tasks like reciting the alphabet backwards, these tests are presumptively unreliable.
While the NHTSA has recognized SFSTs as providing some level of reliability at detecting substance impairment, these tests also have a reasonably high rate for false positive results indicating alcohol or drug impairment. And DWI lawyers can usually provide a strong defense against them. Again, that is why it is important that a drunk driver find the best DUI lawyer that is familiar with the false positive results these tests provide. This error rate rises significantly when officers who have generally already made up their mind that a motorist is substance impaired fails to comply with the precise procedures for administering the tests and evaluating results.
Unless you have had absolutely nothing to drink, a DUI defense lawyer will usually advise drivers not to participate in these tests because the officer will usually find that the driver failed even though such a result might be related to illness, injury, fatigue, lack of coordination, footwear, clothing that impedes performance, or other factors that have nothing to do with intoxication. If you decline to participate in SFSTs and refuse to submit to a roadside breath test, which is also considered a part of the battery of FSTs, the officer will have limited evidence to support probable cause for a DUI arrest. While the prosecutor can still attempt to prosecute the case without this evidence, the task of proving you committed DUI, and filing DUI charges against you, becomes more difficult..Right to Refuse Formal Breath Testing with Potential DUI Penalties
While a driver has the right to refuse a formal chemical test of breath, blood, or urine, this refusal after a lawful DUI arrest will subject the motorist to a six month administrative driver's license suspension for a first offense with a BAC of .015 or higher. The suspension increases for subsequent refusals or with prior DUI convictions. If you promptly request an administration appeals hearing by completing the back of the suspension form and pay a fee, you can receive a Temporary Alcohol Restricted License, which will allow you to continue driving until the hearing. Our Myrtle Beach DUI lawyers often represent clients at this administrative hearing. Even if your license is suspended, you might qualify for a "route restricted license" that permits you to continue driving to specific destinations, such as school and work. A drunk driving lawyer can help to obtain this permit.Right to Audio and Video Record
In South Carolina, the police generally have an obligation to video record their interaction with a stopped motorist. This means there is a mandatory record of the stop, initial contact, FSTs, Miranda warnings and the arrest. Any good drunk driving attorney will request all of the prosecutor's evidence including this video footage. A good DWI defense attorney will also seek discovery of all interactions in the BAC breath testing facility which is recorded in "effective real time." This visual evidence can be much more effective when exposing improper procedures or overzealous conduct by the officer than conflicting testimony with a police officer on one side and the motorist on the other.What Constitutes DUI and DUAC in South Carolina
DUI Offense [Section 56-5-2930]: The criminal component of your intoxicated driving case can be based on actual impaired driving or your BAC level. Pursuant to the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 56-5-2930, a driver commits the offense of driving under influence (DUI) if his or her faculties to drive are "materially and appreciably" impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination. Evidence often offered by the officer or prosecutor to establish impairment might include certain types of traffic violations like swerving into an adjacent lane, incriminating admissions, poor performance on field sobriety tests, and officer observations of the driver during the stop.
DUID Offense [Section 56-5-2933]: Police officers also will arrest a person for driving a vehicle with a BAC level of .08 percent or higher. It is important to understand that a motorist may be convicted under this provision even with absolutely no impairment of driving ability. The simple fact of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC level over the legal limit constitutes a violation under this provision.
Penalties: The penalty for a first offense DUI conviction with a BAC under .10 percent includes a substantial fine or incarceration for not less than 48 hours or more than 30 days. With a BAC .10-.16 percent, the motorists will pay a higher fine or face jail time for a minimum of 72 hours or maximum of 30 days. With a high BAC level of .16 or above, a motorist will face a fine that can be nearly $2,500 or incarceration for between 30 and 90 days. The penalties increase for repeat offenses of DUI within a ten year period. Motorists will also face additional administrative penalties imposed by the DMV which include not only a driver's license suspension but also mandatory completion of alcohol counseling, and a requirement that you maintain SR-22 auto insurance.Myrtle Beach DUI lawyer cost - Fierce Defense of Your Legal Rights and Liberty
Compared to the service our firm offers, the DUI lawyer cost is very low. Our South Carolina DUI attorneys carefully investigate the facts and pursue all relevant discovery from the prosecutor. We analyze this information to identify the most effective substantive and procedural defenses. In a Myrtle Beach arrest, DUI attorney fees and cheap DUI lawyers will probably be difficult to find. Keep in mind however, finding cheap Myrtle beach attorneys is relative based on how much the Myrtle Beach lawyers can save you in legal ramifications. Although we devise our defense strategy based on the unique facts and circumstance of each case, we lower the average cost of DUI lawyer based on defenses we consider handling, such as:
- Illegal stop (lack of reasonable suspicion a crime was committed)
- Failure to calibrate the breath testing device
- Exposure of improperly administered or evaluated FSTs
- Contamination of blood or urine sample
- Insufficient evidence to constitute probable cause for an arrest
- Breath test results distorted by mouth alcohol, acid reflux, low-carb dieting, or other factors
- Inherent unreliability of FSTs
- Officer's failure to properly store the blood specimen or mix chemicals
- Contamination with alcohol at site of injection when performing blood draw
- Failure to maintain chain of custody for blood or urine specimens
- Suppression of statements that are obtained in violation of Miranda rights or that are not voluntary
- Alternate explanations for poor FST performance (e.g. illness, injury, stress)