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Deputy in Charleston County charged with DUI

Citizens of South Carolina trust the police force to provide protection from harm. Usually, these expectations are fulfilled, but once in a while, even those in a position of authority can make a mistake. Reportedly, this is what recently happened when a sheriff's deputy with the Charleston County sheriff's office was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

The incident occurred at about 4 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 24. Reports indicate that a Summerville police officer discovered the deputy asleep at the wheel of a pickup truck while stopped at a green light. After honking the horn and waiting through several cycles of the traffic light, the police officer exited his vehicle and approached the truck. Reports say the police officer had to knock several times before the deputy awoke.

A good defense can mean fewer penalties when facing a felony DUI

Any DUI charges should be considered serious, but when the term felony gets placed on the table, you had better sit up and take notice. In South Carolina, those convicted of felony DUI can be sentenced to serve up to 25 years imprisonment depending upon the nature of the offense. Additionally, a felony DUI conviction can mean the defendant must pay thousands of dollars in fines.

Contrary to popular belief, a South Carolina resident can be charged with a felony DUI even if no car accident occurred. While most drinking and driving-related felonies occur following an accident resulting in "great bodily injury or death," there are other circumstances that could lead to a felony charge. If the alleged offender has already been convicted of three DUI charges, the fourth and subsequent offenses will be treated as felonies.

Important information about boating under the influence charges

In order to discourage intoxicated boating and keep boaters and their passengers safe, the Coast Guard and other water-based law enforcement agencies enforce a wide variety of boating under the influence regulations. If a boat operator is suspected of being intoxicated, state and federal law enforcement officers can pull the boat over and remove the operator from his or her vessel and conduct a battery of tests.

BUI checkpoints, where random vessels are pulled over and checked for intoxicated operators, are common in South Carolina. After pulling a boat operator over, if inebriation is suspected, authorities will generally run a series of exams, not unlike those performed on suspected drunk drivers.

How is a blood alcohol test performed?

Authorities often order a blood alcohol test following a serious traffic accident that involves death and/or catastrophic injury. They may even order a test if no one appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. This test -- depending on how quickly it was performed and if it was performed in accordance with legal standards -- can be a very accurate determiner of how drunk a particular driver was at the time a crash occurred.

Still, the procedure can seem quite invasive after the trauma of being in a car crash. Drivers may be rushed to the hospital following an accident and forced to allow nurses to draw blood. If the driver resists, then police and hospital staff might even restrain the driver, essentially strapping him or her down so the blood can be extracted. In many situations, the law says that authorities doe have the right to forcibly extract blood like this.

Failed your field sobriety test? It's not the end of the world

Field sobriety tests have been around for quite some time now. In addition to breath alcohol testers, the field sobriety test has become standard practice for determining if a South Carolina driver is too inebriated to legally drive. After failing such a test, drivers are usually arrested and charged with DUI.

If you happened to fail your test, you probably remember the three parts of it well: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test and the one-legged stand test. Outside of the field sobriety test, you were probably also asked to blow into a Breathalyzer machine -- a request that you may or may not have complied with.

The consequences of a DUI charge on your license

Your driver's license is your ticket for getting from A to B, and when it gets revoked it can create a lot of inconvenience. As such it is important for South Carolina drivers to understand what circumstances could result in the revocation or suspension of one's license. One of the most common scenarios that triggers a license suspension, for example, is a DUI charge.

As per the current DUI laws that went into affect after Oct. 1, 2014, there are several circumstances in which a DUI offense can trigger a license suspension. If it is your first time DUI offense, and you blew a 14 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or under, then you will be subjected to an automatic 6-month license suspension, with the option of paying a $100 fee and using an Ignition Interlock Device (IID). In this case, you may also be able to receive a provisional license before the 6-month period has passed.

The longterm consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction

Most people see a DUI or DWI conviction as a temporary inconvenience that will eventually pass. Jail time, probation, drug and alcohol classes, drivers' license suspensions, ignition interlock device requirements, fines and other punishments are temporary, right? While this is true, there are some lasting effects of a DUI or DWI conviction of which those accused of the crimes should be aware.

One very serious long-term consequence of a conviction applies to those with jobs in the transportation industry. These individuals could lose their jobs immediately when their employers see a DUI or DWI conviction on their driving records. The conviction also shows up on your permanent criminal record, which might interfere with your future employability. These days, employers commonly carry out criminal background investigations before making hiring decisions. If other candidates without black marks are competing for the job, the person with the DUI might miss out.

What are implied consent laws?

When you get pulled over by a police officer, the officer will usually look for signs of intoxication. If the signs appear to be there, then the officer will request that you take a breathalyzer test. This test will reveal your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). "Implied consent laws" come into play when drivers refuse to take a BAC breathalyzer test.

Although there is considerable debate over the accuracy of BAC breathalyzer tests, and they can sometimes be thrown out as evidence in court, failing your breathalyzer test could mean you will be arrested. That said, the officer does have to ask for your permission to take the breathalyzer test and it is every driver's right to refuse. In fact, over 20 percent of people pulled over for suspected drunk driving refuse to submit to these tests in the United States.

Do Breathalyzers always work correctly?

In every U.S. state, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content that is 0.08 percent or above. With this BAC or higher, police will consider drivers to be intoxicated and the drivers could be arrested and charged with DUI. There are three ways to test an individual's BAC: through blood, urine and breath.

Since blood and urine testing are difficult to administer in the field after an officer pulls over a driver, testing the breath with a handheld Breathalyzer machine has become the standard way to determine drivers' BAC during a routine traffic stop. Police will also administer field sobriety tests to determine if an individual is too drunk to drive.

South Carolina listed as the 8th most dangerous state for driving

South Carolina is high on the list of dangerous driving states, coming in at number eight. The ranking was recently published in a report by 24/7 Wall Street, tracking driving risks, dangers and statistics throughout the nation.

According to 24/7 Wall Street, a higher percentage of fatal accidents in South Carolina are caused by drunk driving in comparison to other states. The national average shows that 72 percent of auto accident deaths are caused by drunk driving, whereas 82 percent of those killed in auto accidents in South Carolina died as a result of drunk driving.

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