When we think of someone “driving under the influence,” we usually assume that they were drinking alcohol. Many substances, however, can impair someone’s driving. Technically, drinking too much coffee could make you agitated and more impulsive on the road.
Many states separate DUI charges into two categories: driving under the influence of alcohol or driving under the influence of drugs (“DUID”). These states charge the offenses separately, and there are different penalties for each crime.
In South Carolina, however, DUI and DUID penalties are the same. From too much booze to a legal prescription, if an outside substance impairs your driving, you could be charged with a DUI.
In this article, we will broadly explore the topic of DUID laws in South Carolina. We will examine aspects that are unique in a DUID case, and we will offer defenses for a DUID allegation.
DUI and DUID Penalties in South Carolina
If the police suspect that your driving is impaired by any substance, the penalties are the same, regardless of what that substance is.
Penalties rise the more often you are accused of driving under the influence.
- 1st Offense
Incarceration from 48 hours to 30 days or a $400 fine; 48 hours of community service; mandatory alcohol and drug safety education
- 2nd Offense
Incarceration from 5 days to 1 year; fines between $2,100 and $5,100; mandatory alcohol and drug safety education
- 3rd Offense
Incarceration from 60 days to 3 years; fines between $3,800 and $6,300; mandatory alcohol and drug safety education
- 4th Offense or More
Incarceration from 1 to 5 years; mandatory alcohol and drug safety education
Factors Unique to a DUID Case
Police have many methods to determine if you’ve had too much alcohol. Some are more reliable than others. A blood test, for instance, is hard to dispute, but breathalyzer results can fail under scrutiny. Regardless, these tests can produce evidence that is admissible in court.
When it comes to driving under the influence of drugs, however, the law must often rely on an officer’s opinion. It is not easy, for example, to immediately determine whether someone is high on cocaine. Police must judge someone’s behavior, look for dilated pupils, and so on.
Furthermore, testing is also incomplete. There are many drugs that blood tests don’t recognize. Even positive results are spurious. To secure an arrest, officers can rely on trace amounts of a substance in someone’s blood. Some drugs remain in a person’s system for days. Someone could be completely sober, but if the cops find the slightest bit of drugs in their system, they can make an arrest.
Defenses Against a DUID Charge
As you can see, DUID allegations can be flimsy from the start. With a skilled lawyer, you can poke holes in the prosecution’s case. Remember, their job is to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the case is weak from the beginning, you may be able to create enough doubt to secure your innocence.
Here are some defenses you can discuss with your attorney.
You Were Not Impaired
Remember, police must rely on their suspicions in most DUID cases. Perhaps you have an eccentric personality that the cops mistake for inebriation. Maybe you are tired or sick when you get pulled over, and the police assume you are high. These are facts that can help your case.
Also, recall that testing is incomplete. Just because the police found a substance in your blood, it doesn’t mean you are under the influence at that moment. Make sure your attorney takes a close look at the authorities’ testing methods and results. If there is a flaw, your lawyer may be able to use it to exonerate you.
Questioning the Police
Police cannot pull you over without probable cause. Moreover, they need a sound reason to accuse you of driving while high.
It’s important to take a strong look at the police’s methods and motivations in any arrest. For example, traffic violations come in two forms: primary and secondary. Police cannot pull you over for a secondary violation. If they do, anything they find afterward could be thrown out in your case.
These days, it’s also necessary to question whether there was bias in your stop or your arrest. Any police action that is based on bigotry should not be tolerated, and it can cause your case to be thrown out.
If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, our firm is here to help. Schedule a consultation with us online, or call us today at (803) 938-4952.