First Time Arrested for DUI? Here’s What to Expect
If you are reading this, you most likely have been accused of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This briefly explains what to expect, procedurally, if you have been arrested for DUI 1st Offense. This information applies to DUI 1st Offense only, as many of the procedures will be different if this is a DUI 2nd or greater offense, or a Felony DUI case.
Where is my car?
In most cases, the arresting agency will have your car towed. If you haven’t already, you will need to get your car back. The tow slip will be included in the paperwork the officer gave you when you were booked into jail. Typically, the officer will have given this directly to you, and you will have it while in detention. In some cases, it will be placed with your personal belongings that will be given back to you when you are released. Before I go any further, this is very important: keep all the paperwork you are given by the arresting officer, the magistrate who set your bond, and the detention center.
You will need to contact the towing company that towed your car and make arrangements to get it out of storage. This costs money. The longer the towing company holds your car, the more expensive it will be to retrieve your car.
Where is my Driver’s License?
If you refused to provide a breath sample or a urine screen, or you provided a breath sample and your blood alcohol concentration was .15 or greater, your license will be administratively suspended by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. If you refused to provide a breath or urine sample, your license will be suspended for six months. If you provided a sample and your blood alcohol concentration was .15 or greater, your license will be suspended for thirty days.
If either of these situations apply in your case, the arresting officer will issue you a Notice of Suspension (see the packet of paperwork you were given) and take possession of your driver’s license.
The Notice of Suspension is extremely important. Your lawyer will need this to request an Administrative Hearing to appeal your driver’s license suspension.
When is Court?
If you have been arrested for DUI, the officer will give you a Uniform Traffic Ticket that states the charge (DUI) and will provide you with a court date. The ticket will state where your court date is, when your court date is, and what time your court date is. Note: if you have been arrested for a DUI 2nd Offense or greater, you may instead be given bond paperwork that has your court date for General Sessions Court.
What Happens at Court?
You must appear in Court if you have been charged with DUI. At the initial appearance, you will meet with the arresting officer and appear before the Judge. You will have the option of pleading guilty to DUI, having a bench trial, or requesting a jury trial.
If you plead guilty, the officer will tell the judge what happened (from the officer’s point of view). Next, the judge will ask you a series of questions to ensure you are pleading guilty of your own free will. Finally, the judge will hear from you, and then the judge will sentence you.
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If you elect a bench trial, the Judge will act as the judge of the facts and the law. He or she will make the decision on whether the arresting officer has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of DUI. The officer will testify. You will have an opportunity to ask the officer questions. You will then have the opportunity to testify, or you can elect not to testify, and the judge cannot hold that against you when he or she is determining whether you are guilty or not guilty. The officer bears the burden of proof.
If you elect to have a jury trial, your case will be rescheduled for another date and time when the Court is holding jury trials.
What Happens if I am Convicted of DUI 1st Offense?
If you are convicted of DUI, the Judge can sentence you to a fine or jail time. The DUI statute is written in such a way that the higher the blood alcohol concentration, the higher the potential sentence. For instance, if your blood alcohol concentration is .16 or greater, you could be sentenced to a fine or up to 90 days in jail.
There are also collateral consequences that come with a DUI conviction. You will have to have maintain high risk insurance (SR-22 insurance) for three years. You will have to complete an Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP), and your driver’s license will be suspended for up to six months. You may also have to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your vehicle.
What Happens if I Hire a Lawyer?
If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will typically immediately request a jury trial. This will cancel the initial court date and allow your lawyer the opportunity to file a motion for discovery. A motion for discovery is the method with which your lawyer obtains all the evidence the arresting officer has – incident report, copy of in-car camera footage, copy of body-cam footage, and copy of the breath testing room video.
Your lawyer will then review the State’s evidence, investigate the case, negotiate with the arresting officer or the prosecutor, prepare a defense, prepare for trial, and if a plea deal cannot be worked out to your satisfaction, try the case in front of a jury.
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