Popular South Carolina Legislator Faces DUI Charges

It is commonly known that a DUI charge can result in devastating consequences. Last fall, a well-known state legislator was charged with DUI after returning home from a football game.

The legislator refused a Breathalyzer test when officers stopped him several hours after the game. He was on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit family.

Eventually submitting to a field sobriety test, the man was held for several hours. He was finally released after paying a bond of nearly $1,000.

His license was suspended for six months for refusing the Breathalyzer test. He was only allowed the use of a provisional license for going to and from work.

He has requested a jury trial to dispute the charges. With no prior criminal record, he says his license has only been suspended in the past for not paying traffic tickets, which he later paid.

Modifications To South Carolina DUI Laws Result In Enhanced Penalties

DUI laws in South Carolina were always serious, but in the past few years, DUI penalties have become significantly more severe.

New DUI laws went into effect in 2009. The new laws and penalties apply to both in-state and out-of-state residents.

The new laws impose mandatory minimum sentences for even first-time offenders. A driver found with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between the legal limit of .08 percent and .09 percent automatically receives a $400 fine and potentially faces up to 30 days in jail.

A higher BAC means substantially higher penalties. For example, a first-time offender with a BAC of 0.16 percent or higher may spend up to two months in jail and pay a fine of $1,000.

Additionally, all drivers convicted of DUI are required to attend substance abuse counseling as part of their sentences. Responsibility for paying for this type of program, which can cost up to $2,500, falls on the driver.

The modifications also include greater felony DUI penalties. An impaired driver who causes "great bodily injury or death" to another can be charged with a felony DUI. Felony DUI penalties are especially harsh, with a driver facing potential prison time of 15 to 25 years. Fines may also reach as high as $25,000.

Finally, as demonstrated by the case above, refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer test results in an automatic six-month license suspension.

Being charged with DUI is an overall unpleasant experience. As the current penalties illustrate, even a first-time offender faces hefty fines, potential jail time and mandatory substance abuse treatment. The consequences may cause significant problems for years to come.

If you are charged with DUI, it is a good idea to retain an experienced traffic and DUI attorney with a thorough knowledge of criminal and traffic law. A skilled attorney understands the methods the government uses to prosecute DUIs and can use this understanding to craft an effective defense against the charge. The attorney can also protect your rights and work toward the best possible outcome for the case.