4 common defenses to DUI charges in South Carolina

There are several legitimate defenses that may be invoked when someone in South Carolina is charged with DUI.

Last year, The Post and Courier published an article detailing several cases in which a South Carolina driver's DUI charges were dismissed. For example, state law mandates that most sobriety or breath tests be videotaped. In one case, a man was shown to walk too many steps during the heel-to-toe test and left the camera view. As a result, the case was thrown out.

It is imperative that anyone accused of drunk driving understand the state's laws as well as common defenses that may be used, such as the following:

1. Incomplete or inadmissible video

The requirement to videotape all DUI investigations was amended in early 2015 to note that law enforcement officers must make a reasonable attempt to do so. The recording must meet the following standards:

  • It should start when the law enforcement officer turns on the lights of the car.
  • It should include the entirety of any breath test administered.
  • It should record the behavior of the accused for the 20 minutes prior to the test.

Straying from these standards could affect the outcome of a DUI case.

2. Improper sobriety and breath testing

When it comes to field sobriety testing, there are standards by which law enforcement officers are expected to abide. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines three sobriety tests that may be used to determine if a suspect has been drinking. Failing one test alone is not supposed to necessarily indicate drunk driving. Additionally, law enforcement officers should clearly explain before the tests are administered what is expected of the accused.

Breath testing has been shown to be an unreliable measure of someone's blood alcohol content. The National District Attorneys Association points out that several factors, including officer ineptitude and improper calibration of the machine, can lead to an inaccurate reading.

3. Necessity

In some cases, people may have felt they had no other choice than to drive after drinking. According to a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling, the necessity defense may be invoked when there is either an imminent or present emergency that would result in death or serious bodily harm and no other alternative is available to the driver. For example, someone fleeing an abusive spouse may try to use the necessity defense.

4. An improper stop

Another way to defend against DUI charges in South Carolina is to state that the law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to make a traffic stop. In order to pull over a vehicle, law enforcement are required to have reason to believe that the driver is breaking the law. Failing to do so could result in a dismissed case.

Anyone who has questions about this issue should consult with an attorney.