Elements of a DUI Case in SC

Driving under the influence in SC can be charged as a “traditional” DUI, driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), felony DUI resulting in injury or death, or South Carolina’s “zero tolerance” law that applies only to minors.

Although similar, each type of DUI offense requires different proof, has different consequences, and may have different available defenses.

SC Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

In a traditional DUI case, the state must prove:

  1. That you were driving;
  2. While under the influence of alcohol or other drugs;
  3. To the extent that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.

If the jurors find that the state failed to prove any one of these elements, they will find you not guilty at trial.

The State will typically attempt to prove intoxication through introduction of breathalyzer results, field sobriety test results, observations of witnesses as to your behavior, observations of the officer as to how you were driving before he stopped you, and introduction of any statements that you made to the police.

SC Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC)

DUAC is South Carolina’s “per-se” law. Although it is sometimes used, we don’t see it as often as traditional DUI charges.

Under SC’s DUAC law, the state need only prove: 1) That you were driving; and 2) That your blood alcohol content was greater than .08.

Obviously, you will only be charged under this statute if you submit to alcohol or blood testing. If you are charged with DUAC, you may still introduce evidence to contradict the results of the test. If the test gave an inaccurate result or the proper procedures were not followed, your case can be dismissed, or the jury can still find you not guilty.

Felony DUI in SC

Felony DUI is charged when a person is driving under the influence and causes either: 1) Great bodily injury; or 2) Death to another person.

The elements of felony DUI that the state must prove are:

  1. The defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  2. While under the influence, they drive a motor vehicle;
  3. While driving, the person does “any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle;” and
  4. That “act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury or death to another person.”

How is felony DUI different from “regular” DUI or DUAC?

  • There is usually a victim or the family of a victim who are pushing the prosecutor for a conviction and harsh sentence;
  • There is often media coverage which also puts pressure on your prosecutor to get a conviction and harsh sentence;
  • The statute requires that the defendant be “under the influence” as opposed to “materially and substantially impaired;”
  • The state must prove that the defendant committed a traffic violation or otherwise was liable for the accident;
  • The state must prove the nature and extent of the alleged victims’ injuries; and
  • If convicted, prison time is almost guaranteed in most cases – a defendant in a felony DUI case is fighting for their freedom – a probationary sentence or voluntary dismissal by the prosecutor is not likely unless there is insufficient evidence for the prosecutor to try the case (i.e. key evidence is excluded pretrial).  
What are the Most Common Types of Evidence in a SC DUI Trial?

The breathalyzer is the most common test given in DUI cases, but urinalysis and blood tests are utilized as well. You can refuse to submit to testing - however if you do so, your license will be immediately suspended pursuant to South Carolina's implied consent statute.

Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are often given on the roadside and will be used as evidence in the state's case. When field sobriety tests are given, the correct procedure must be followed by the police – and, even then, they are not a reliable indicator of blood alcohol content. The SFSTs that have been approved by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration include:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN): the HGN is designed to detect nystagmus, or jerking, in the eye that is caused by alcohol intoxication;
  • The one-legged stand test; and
  • The walk-and-turn test.

Videotaping of the incident location and the breathalyzer site is mandatory under South Carolina law. These videos can be obtained by your attorney during the discovery process. They are often pivotal in your case, as they can show not only your behavior, but they can potentially show the reason for the traffic stop, the behavior of the police, and whether the police followed proper procedures during the administration of field sobriety tests and the breathalyzer.

If the videotape was not turned on at the time the blue lights were activated, if the videotape does not show the field sobriety tests, or if the videotape does not show the officer reading Miranda rights, and if there is no justification for the officer’s failure to comply with the law, your case should be dismissed pursuant to a SC case called City of Rock Hill v. Suchenski.

SC DUI, DUAC, and Felony DUI Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington

Lacey Thompson focuses her law practice exclusively on criminal defense and DUI defense in SC to better serve her clients. Call the Thompson Defense Firm at 843-444-6122 or contact us online to set up a free consultation about your case.