When a DUI Statute contains multiple severity levels, or provides for enhanced punishment, on the basis or a defendant’s previous convictions for the offense, it has been held that, though a level of severity with which the defendant is charged must be pled in the charging document. The defendant’s previous convictions do not constitute elements of the offense which must be proven at trial; however, they can be established during the punishment phase.
Defendant’s prior convictions for driving under the influence are inadmissible bad character evidence in a prosecution for driving under the influence, even though the prior convictions are relevant to the categorization of the sentence the defendant will receive if convicted. But, it has been previously held that, where a conviction must have occurred within a prescribed time period to support an enhanced severity level or penalty, failure to establish the date of a prior conviction will require reversal of a subsequent conviction under the enhancement provision.
It has previously been held that, where a conviction must have occurred within a prescribed time period to support an enhanced severity level or penalty, failure to establish the date of a prior conviction will require a reversal of a subsequent conviction under the enhancement provision. And, some states have statutes protecting the right of a defendant to a fair trial in an enhanced DUI prosecution by providing that, where there is a jury trial, the proceeding must be bifurcated (or split in half), with evidence and information about the defendant’s alleged prior convictions excluded from the jury’s knowledge at the guilt phase.
While certified copies of records of prior DUI convictions is one method of proving commission of prior offenses, it has been held that such copies are not the sole acceptable method. Further, where those methods have been destroyed in the ordinary course of court business, other proof may be substituted.
Some courts, including South Carolina, have held that prior convictions in other states may be proven to support punishment under an enhanced penalty provision, where the out-of-state convictions under an enhanced penalty provision, where the out-of-state convictions were for substantially similar offenses.
While the provisions listed here are general provisions for throughout the United States, they apply to South Carolina for the most part. But, one things that is extremely important to note is that if you have previous DUI convictions, it is so important for you to retain a competent DUI lawyer to navigate through the DUI system as efficiently as possible. Call the law offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP for a consultation at our Baxter Village office located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. You can reach us at 803-548-4444, or toll-free at 877-374-5999.