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South Carolina DUI Arrest and Court Process



This is a general overview of what to expect during an arrest and during court. It is important to understand that different police agencies and courts have slightly different processes throughout the state. It is very important to contact a local South Carolina DUI lawyer in order to determine the exact court process your case will take.

South Carolina DUI Arrest Process

South Carolina DUI Arrest ProcessWhen a driver is stopped by a police officer for any reason in South Carolina, the officer will begin looking for signs that the driver is under the influence. These signs and symptoms might include slurred speech, alcohol on the driver’s breath or clothes, or the results of a portable breath test. Police officers in South Carolina are more likely than officers elsewhere to videotape the stop, sobriety testing, and arrest of drivers and often have recording devices which can record conversations between the officer and the driver. If the officer believes that there’s a good reason to think the driver is under the influence, the officer will arrest him or her. After anyone charged with a crime in South Carolina is arrested, the police officers who arrest him or her are required to inform him or her of the charges against him or her and bring the defendant before a judge or magistrate. Typically, this must be done within 48 hours of the arrest, but there is an exception if the State can demonstrate that unusual or emergency circumstances require a longer time. Unlike most states, in South Carolina, the police may not choose to release defendants who are charged with misdemeanor offenses or infractions with a citation. Instead, if the officer who stops a driver believes the driver has committed a DUI, the officer will arrest the driver and bring him or her before a judge or magistrate.

South Caroline Court Process In Impaired Driving Cases

South Carolina Criminal and DUI Court ProcessWhen the defendant appears in court, the judge or magistrate will first tell the defendant about the charges facing him or her and the punishments that are possible for a conviction as well as the right to a public defender or court-appointed attorney for all of the proceedings starting with the initial appearance and extending through trial to an appeal.

In the typical DUI case, it’s usually at this point that the court will consider whether to release the defendant on bail before the trial. Bail will probably be granted in DUI cases in South Carolina, but the court can require various things from the defendant before allowing him or her to be released on bail, ranging from a promise to appear (which is known as “release upon one’s own recognizances”) to restrictions on the defendant’s behavior, to a bond which the defendant must forfeit to the court if he or she fails to appear when called.

In repeat offense DUI cases and other cases where punishments greater than a $500 fine or 30 days in jail are possible, the defendant has the right to a preliminary hearing conducted by a magistrate. If the defendant wants a preliminary hearing, he or she must request one within 10 days of being informed of this right, which is typically at the bond hearing. In the preliminary hearing, the court will conduct an examination to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether the defendant is probably guilty of that crime. At this proceeding, the State will present witnesses and evidence which the defendant can challenge or refute with witnesses or evidence of his or her own. If the court concludes that the defendant probably is guilty of the crime he or she is charged with, the defendant will have to plead guilty or go to trial.

Whether or not there is a preliminary hearing, before the trial begins, the defendant will be called upon to enter a plea. This is sometimes called an “arraignment” and usually consists of the judge or magistrate reading the official charges against the defendant aloud and asking the defendant to respond to them with a plea. The defendant must plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial.

First offense DUI cases are typically tried in magistrate or county courts and repeat or felony DUI offenses are tried in district courts.

South Carolina DUI Trial Process

jury_chairs_blue-smallAll drivers charged with DUI offenses have the right to a jury trial in South Carolina. The jury will consist of 12 people and they must all agree on a verdict. Trial begins with the selection of the jury from a panel of potential jurors and the defendant may participate in the process of selecting them. Once the jury is selected and sworn, both the prosecution and the defense will give an opening statement. The State will present its witnesses and evidence, and the defense may challenge the State’s case by cross-examining State witnesses. The defense may put on a case of its own or may rely on the burden on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: South Carolina Code of Laws Title 56 (Motor Vehicles) 56-5-2935, Title 17 (Criminal Procedures) 17-3-10, 17-13-50, Title 14(Courts) 14-9-120, 14-9-180, South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 2, Rule 14