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Once a law enforcement officer in South Carolina stops you under suspicion of driving under influence of alcohol or drugs, they may arrest you if they have probable cause to believe you were driving while impaired. After the arrest, the law enforcement officials arrest will take you back to the police station, where you can opt to take a breath, blood, urine test, or standardized field sobriety tests. The essential thing to remember about the breath test is that there's no standard equipment used in every police department.
When you opt for a blood test, you must be taken to a clinic or hospital where a phlebotomist will draw your blood. The blood test takes approximately three weeks to return. Police officers rarely ask for urine tests unless there is a suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It's essential to note the driver who has been arrested can't refuse a blood, breath, or urine test.
Often, police officers don’t file a complaint or document that issues the criminal charges against the arrested driver until the blood results are received, unless it's a second or subsequent offense. After the filing of a complaint, a preliminary hearing is scheduled. If you haven't already hired an experienced attorney before the scheduling of your preliminary hearing, it's crucial that you hire a reputable DUI criminal defense attorney before you go to the hearing.
If the results of the blood or urine tests are unavailable before the preliminary hearing, it's essential for your DUI attorney to ask for a continuance because there's no point in attending the preliminary hearing without the test results.
What Happens After a DUI?
If you or a loved one are arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, you'll be put into a police vehicle and transported to the nearest police station. Here, you'll be fingerprinted and photographed. For first-time DUI offenders, this can be a scary experience that can cause anxiety and panic.
In some states, you could be released immediately if a friend or family member comes to jail, pays your bail, and takes you home. However, in many states, jail sentences have become mandatory even for first-time DUI offenders. Often, first-time offenders face jail terms that last a couple of days, which can be served on a weekend. However, even if the jail term lasts a couple of days it's still a jail term and it may cause negative consequences in your life—including mental health implications, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For repeat offenders, jail time is mandatory in many states and the sentences are longer than a couple of days. And if there are aggravating circumstances connected with your drunk driving case, your criminal penalties can be enhanced. For many drivers, it's humiliating to appear in public to answer to criminal charges of being intoxicated while driving.
Across the United States, even for a first-time DUI conviction, your criminal penalty will include license suspension for a period of time. Even if your state provides a hardship license or restricted driving permit that allows you to drive to medical appointments, school, or work during the time of license suspension or license revocation, your driving privileges will be limited.
In some states, if you refused to submit to chemical testing, or take a field sobriety test, you'll face automatic license suspension, even before you appear in court.
Besides the shame and guilt you may be feeling, a suspended driver's license could make you feel like a burden because you may have to rely on friends and loved ones to get to school, work, grocery store, etc.
Even if you don't face any prison time for your drunk driving conviction, you may receive a probation sentence. It's essential to note that the terms of a probation sentence are determined by the sentencing judge. If you don't meet the terms of probation, you could be imprisoned.
In almost all jurisdictions, if you want to get your driver's license back after a DUI conviction, you must complete an alcohol abuse treatment program.
A trained alcohol evaluator or counselor will evaluate your pattern of alcohol and drug consumption to determine if you have an alcohol and drug abuse problem. Typically, the counselor will ask you questions about how alcohol affects your life. Based on the results of your alcohol evaluation, you may need to attend a court-approved alcohol treatment program. This can help get a better understanding and remedy your relationship with alcohol and other drugs.
In many states, if you get a drunk driving conviction, you must get a special auto insurance policy, known as SR-22 insurance, before you can drive a motor vehicle. The cost of the SR-22 form can double or even triple your insurance premiums.
In most states, drivers who are convicted of drunk driving must install a breath alcohol ignition interlock device on their vehicles. Some states require these devices for even first-time DUI offenders.
The ignition interlock device requires a driver to have an alcohol-free breath test result before their vehicle can start. The installation of ignition interlock devices and the monthly expenses associated with them are very costly.
Related: Greenville Misdemeanor DUI Lawyer
What Should I Do Right After a DUI?
Being arrested for and charged with a drunk driving charge can have a negative effect on your life. Most probably, your driver's license will be suspended, if not revoked completely. You could face hefty fines, high court costs, fees, and other criminal penalties, and you could serve prison time. You may even lose your career and your employability may be affected.
Before you leave the county jail, you’ll be given a notice which has the date you should appear in court regarding your drunk driving charge. Whatever you do, do not lose it, forget, or dismiss that court date. Once you get home, note the time and date of your court appearance on your calendar. Make sure that you have no other appointments on that day.
Chemical testing is a requirement in most states and you may face severe consequences for refusal to take chemical tests. A chemical test displays information about your current blood alcohol concentration. From this blood alcohol level, the police officers can deduce the amount of alcohol in your blood at the time of your arrest. If you refused to take field sobriety tests, then you have little to fear from this and much to lose by refusing blood testing.
Don't use a regular attorney for DUI court cases. Drunk driving laws are complicated and require extensive knowledge of the legal system. While other lawyers can represent you in court, only a specialized DUI criminal defense attorney can help to get a favorable outcome in your DUI defense.
After your time of arrest, you have few days to make a formal request for a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hearing. The DMV hearing will determine whether you can keep your driver's license. If you or your DUI criminal defense lawyer don't request a DMV hearing, your driver's license will be suspended automatically.
During the arraignment part of your trial, don't plead guilty. It's possible to fight your drunk driving charges and win your DUI case. However, you must have an experienced Greenville DUI defense lawyer on your side to do this. Pleading not guilty will give you a jury trial, during which you can prove that you were not driving while drunk, or challenge the grounds of your case in another manner.
Related: Felony DUI Lawyer in Greenville
Get the Best Legal Counsel During This Confusing Time
From arrest to trial to sentencing, navigating a drunk driving charge can be a complex process. Thus, it's essential to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Instead of just wondering, “I have a drunk driving criminal offense, what should I do?” you can move forward with life hiring an experienced legal counsel to protect your legal rights and advise you on the potential legal options. Hiring a DUI attorney who is not only experienced but pays attention to the details of your case is crucial.
At Touma Law Group, our Greenville DUI criminal defense attorneys have the extensive legal knowledge and we'll provide you with the best possible legal representation in your case.