A DUI charge presents numerous problems, and a DUI conviction provokes a number of consequences. Naturally, those charged with DUI in South Carolina rightly worry about these consequences. The following questions are some of the most frequently asked ones we hear in our practice:
A: During a DUI stop in South Carolina, if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test or if you had a BAC of 0.15% or greater, the officer will likely take your license and revoke your privilege to drive in South Carolina. If the suspension was caused by a refusal, the implied consent law provides a six month suspension. If the suspension is because of a 0.15% or greater blood alcohol concentration, the suspension will last one month. The best way to immediately challenge these suspensions is to request an administrative hearing at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV). The DMV may be slow about granting this hearing. However, after hearing, they may grant you a temporary alcohol license.
A: Under South Carolina law, driving is a privilege, not a right. The South Carolina DMV can suspend a SC driver’s license regardless of the result of the DUI trial. In DUI cases, the criminal side, the DUI trial involving the Court and the Solicitor’s (prosecutor’s office), and the civil side, involving the DMV. On the criminal side, where constitutional rights to a fair trial, jury, and representation are involved, you have the right to have your guilt or innocence adjudged in Court. However, on the administrative side, the DMV and the Implied Consent law determine your privilege to drive. The Implied Consent law provides that if you drive on the roads of the State of South Carolina, you have already given your implied consent to a breath or other form of BAC testing. Although individuals have the right to refuse these tests, the State punishes the refusal by a set suspension of the individual’s driving privilege. The determination of this privilege generally rests with the DMV, not the Court.
A: The DMV administrative hearing involved in SC DUI cases is a proceeding where a DMV hearing officer will hear evidence and make a determination whether under the Implied Consent law (and other applicable law) the arresting officer followed the law and whether the individual’s driving privilege should be suspended. There is no jury and no judge. There is no adjudication of guilt or innocence as to the DUI, only whether procedure was adequately followed. On the other hand, in a criminal trial, the subject is guilt or innocence on the criminal offense, the DUI. The State’s prosecutor has the burden of proving to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle while your ability to drive was materially and appreciable impaired by drugs or alcohol.
A: Yes. The DMV hearing and criminal trial are entirely separate matters dealing at least partially with separate issues.
A: Just because you submitted to the breathalyzer and it registered some BAC does not necessarily mean that you need to request an administrative hearing. Your driving privilege will only be revoked automatically if you refused to take the test or if your breath alcohol concentration was .15 or greater. If neither of those conditions are true, your license will not be suspended and you will have no need to request an administrative hearing.
A: Administrative hearings, although less formal than trials, are still not something to be taken lightly. If you have been charged with DUI, it is always good advice to retain a lawyer, and he or she will know how to best handle your DMV situation.
A: The DMV is unpredictable on scheduling, and times between request and hearing can vary widely. Temporary Alcohol licenses, if you have obtained one, will last until the hearing, no matter how long the delay lasts.
A: Requests for hearing must be made within 30 days of your notice of suspension, which was made at the time of your arrest.
A: You will be sent a notice that you can obtain your temporary Alcohol license. This license will valid until the administrative hearing. At the hearing your suspension may be lifted or upheld. If your suspension is lifted, your ordinary driver’s license will be reinstated. Even if your suspension is lifted, your pending DUI or DUAC charge will not be affected.
A: If your license suspension is upheld, you will have to turn in your temporary alcohol license and serve your suspension. Suspension for BAC of .15 or greater is one month, and for refusing the breathalyzer it is 6 months. Besides the suspension, you will be required by the DMV to enroll in what is called an ADSAP (Alcohol Drug Action Safety Program). You must complete the ADSAP class in order to get your license back.
A: Possibly. You may be entitled to a special driving privilege. The DMV will send you a notice in the mail informing you of what driving privileges you may be entitled to and how to go about getting that license.
A: No. It is not a good idea to get a provisional license until after your DUI is resolved. You are limited to one provisional license per lifetime, so you should probably save it for later. The Administrative suspension is only part of the battle. In addition to the administrative suspension, if you are convicted of DUI/DUAC, the DMV will suspend your license for another 6 months. At that point you would want to have the chance to use a provisional license.
A: Yes. Even if you win at the DMV, you will still face the pending criminal charges until they are adjudicated in criminal court.