The cases are usually complex and they receive coverage from local media.
Not to mention, law enforcement and prosecutors often times receive pressure from the victims and or their families. As you can see, they’re typically higher profile cases.
But first, let’s explore what’s involved when someone is charged with a felony DUI in SC.
Felony DUI in South Carolina is when a person who is impaired by alcohol or drugs causes death or serious injury to another motorist or a passenger in their own vehicle.
Particularly when there is a death, the police and prosecutors will go to extra lengths to ensure that there is a conviction and prison sentence in these cases.
These are complex cases and it is critical that a felony DUI defendant retain experienced DUI defense counsel as soon as possible after the accident even if the arrest has not yet happened.
What is a Felony DUI?
In a felony DUI case, the prosecution must prove that:
- The person was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination.
- They were driving a motor vehicle.
- While driving the motor vehicle, they committed an “act forbidden by law” or neglected a “duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle.”
- The act or neglect caused great bodily injury or death to another person.
South Carolina’s felony DUI law states that “‘great bodily injury’ means bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
What are the Penalties for Felony DUI in South Carolina?
Felony DUI with great bodily injury carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days up to 15 years in prison, and a mandatory fine of $5100 up to $10,100.
If death resulted, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of one year up to 25 years in prison and a mandatory fine of $10,100 up to $25,100.
The court cannot suspend the sentence in either case, and probation is not an option. The person’s license is suspended upon conviction, but, upon release from prison, the person may get an “ignition interlock restricted license.”
They must keep an ignition interlock device in their car for three years for felony DUI with great bodily injury or five years for felony DUI where death results.
What Are The Defenses for a Felony DUI in SC?
Most of the same defenses that are available in misdemeanor DUI cases are also available in a felony DUI case. But, under South Carolina law a felony DUI defendant cannot refuse the breathalyzer or blood draw.
In felony DUI cases, law enforcement investigators and prosecutors will put much more effort into obtaining evidence than they would in an ordinary DUI case.
They will subpoena bank records or credit card statements to determine how much money the defendant spent at bars, they will actively seek witnesses who can testify as to the defendant’s condition before or while driving, and they will subpoena the defendant’s medical records.
The defense will need to examine not only the defendant’s medical records but also any medical records of the alleged victims to determine whether the accident was, in fact, the cause of death or whether the victim’s injuries were severe enough to warrant a felony DUI charge.
The Highway Patrol MAIT team will conduct their own investigation but, in many cases, it will be critical that the defense retain an independent accident re-constructionist to determine the circumstances and cause of the accident.
In many cases, the defense will need to retain additional experts to provide consultation and testimony regarding the breath test, blood samples, medical records, field sobriety tests, or any other issue that could be disputed at trial.
Facing a Felony DUI in South Carolina?
DUI’s are serious business, especially when talking about a Felony DUI charge. Don’t leave your future to chance. Consider speaking with a DUI attorney.
If you have been charged with a felony DUI in the Myrtle Beach, Conway, Charleston, or Columbia areas, contact the South Carolina felony DUI defense attorneys at Coastal Law, LLC, today at (843) 488-5000 to find out how we can help. Or, fill out our online form to set up a free, no-strings-attached consultation.