Driving under suspension (DUS) charges in SC can result in a vicious cycle of license suspensions, license revocations, and jail time for many people – how do you end the cycle? How do you avoid it in the first place?
Obviously, do not drive if your license has been suspended – SC police will take you to jail for driving under suspension. Then, if you are convicted, your license will be suspended again, consecutively (one suspension begins when the previous one ends).
If you are charged with driving under suspension in SC, do not plead guilty. Get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your case, get your license straight if possible, stop driving, and your attorney may be able to get your charges dismissed, negotiate a rewrite to a traffic violation that does not result in a consecutive suspension, or try your case to a jury.
What’s the point? Can you win a driving under suspension case in SC? Maybe – below, we’ll discuss some of the ways that your attorney may be able to help you avoid a conviction for driving under suspension.
Driving Under Suspension Notice Requirements
If your prosecutor does not agree to dismiss or rewrite your driving under suspension ticket, they must prove the elements of driving under suspension in SC to get a conviction:
- You were driving – the vehicle was in motion and you were in the driver’s seat,
- Your driver’s license was suspended at the time you were driving, and
- You received notice of the suspension – if you did not know that your license was suspended, you are not guilty of driving under suspension.
In many driving under suspension trials, the case turns on whether you were given the appropriate notice of the license suspension. The prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that you had actual knowledge of the suspension, but they must prove that the notice was provided to you in the manner required by SC law.
If notice is not proven, 1) the court should “direct a verdict of acquittal” – at the conclusion of the state’s case, the judge should dismiss your case because there is insufficient evidence to send it to the jury, or 2) the circuit court should overturn the magistrate or municipal court judge’s denial of a directed verdict (believe it or not, some lower court judges will ignore the law and rule in the officer’s favor).
What type of notice is required for a driving under suspension conviction in SC? It depends on the reason for the license suspension…
Loss of Points or a Prior Driving Under Suspension Conviction
The type of notice required for a driving under suspension conviction in SC is found in a series of SC statutes, and it is outlined in the SC Court of Appeals case State v. Smith, 498 S.E.2d 648 (S.C.App. 1998).
If your license suspension is due to a loss of 12 or more points on your license, SC Code Section 56-1-810 requires the DMV to notify you in writing, and the notice must be sent using certified mail with a return receipt. If there is no return receipt, the notice was not proper, and you cannot be convicted of driving under suspension.
Similarly, if your license is suspended due to a previous conviction for driving under suspension (each conviction carries an additional, consecutive suspension, see SC Code Section 56-1-460), the DMV must notify you by certified mail with a return receipt.
SC Code Section 56-1-465 says that, when your license is suspended based on a prior driving under suspension conviction, the DMV must provide notice in the same manner “as is required when the license is suspended due to loss of points as provided in Section 56-1-810.”
As with a suspension for loss of points, if there is no return receipt, the notice was not proper, and you cannot be convicted of driving under suspension.
All Other Suspensions
What about other types of suspensions? Your license could be suspended for a prior driving under the influence conviction, implied consent violation, failure to provide proof of financial responsibility after an auto accident, failure to stop for a blue light, or for other reasons.
SC Code Section 56-1-350 says that “[i]n all cases of cancellation, suspension, or revocation of drivers’ licenses, the Department of Motor Vehicles shall notify the licensee as prescribed in Section 56-1-360 that his license has been canceled, suspended, or revoked.”
SC Code Section 56-1-360 says that “the notice must be given by the Department of Motor Vehicles by depositing the notice in the United States mail with postage prepaid addressed to the person at the address contained in the driver’s license records of the department.”
This means that, if your license is suspended for any reason other than a prior driving under suspension conviction or a loss of 12 or more points, the DMV is not required to send notice to you by certified mail, but they must still certify that they mailed the notice to your address on record.
The Importance of Mitigation in a Driving Under Suspension Case
What if the DMV mailed the proper notice, your license was suspended, and you were clearly driving the vehicle?
The officer and your prosecutor want to ensure that the roads are safe – part of that is ensuring that people are not driving while their licenses are suspended, because ordinarily someone’s license is suspended because the state has determined that they are an unsafe driver.
On the other hand, the officer and your prosecutor are probably not out to hurt people unnecessarily. If your attorney can demonstrate that you are a safe driver, that you are taking your suspension seriously, and that you are doing everything that you are required to do to get your license back including paying all fines and DMV fees, they might agree to dismiss or rewrite your ticket to a “lesser” traffic violation that does not involve an additional, consecutive license suspension.
If your attorney can show the prosecutor that you have gotten your license restored while your case was pending, that you have a job, a family, and a need for transportation, and that you are driving responsibly, it is more likely that they will agree to help you although there are no guarantees, and the law does not require it.
How do you end the cycle of license suspensions and license revocation?
- Take care not to allow your license to get suspended.
- Don’t drive if your license is suspended.
- If you do get charged with driving under suspension, do not plead guilty and call your attorney immediately.
- While your case is pending, don’t drive and do everything possible to 1) get your license restored and 2) prove that you are a responsible driver who is not likely to be charged with serious traffic violations in the future.
Traffic Violation Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you are charged with driving under suspension in SC, do not plead guilty until you have consulted with your attorney.
The Myrtle Beach traffic violation attorneys at Coastal Law may be able to help you get your ticket dismissed, negotiate a plea to a lesser offense that does not carry an additional suspension, or try your case to a jury.
Schedule a free consultation by completing our online form or by calling us at (843) 488-5000.