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Charleston DUI Law Blog

Resolution sought by family after death in crash

When there is a car accident, the most tragic result possible is the death of an innocent person. Sometimes, even a year or more later, relatives of the victim can still be seeking healing and resolution. That is the case with a South Carolina family, the mother of whom was killed in a car accident last year.

The daughter of the woman who died said that although she has forgiven the driver, she still needs resolution in the case. The accident happened on Feb. 16, 2014, and the victim suffered multiple injuries because of it that proved to be fatal.

What is the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program?

Did you know that one of the goals of the South Carolina government is to rehabilitate drunk driving offenders? This goal is accomplished by requiring those convicted of felony DUI to attend a statewide substance abuse program known as the South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. Defendants must attend this program if they are convicted of driving or boating under the influence or if they are arrested under the zero-tolerance policy for blood alcohol content in drivers under the age of 21.

Is the program mandatory if I'm convicted of DUI?

DUI charges filed against Welborn Mayor

DUI charges affect people in all walks of life, from business people to students to individuals in elected offices. One such affected individual was the Mayor of Greenwood, Welborn Adams, who was arrested after a breathalyzer test established that he had been driving with a 0.09 blood alcohol content. According to South Carolina law, driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 is illegal and can be a basis for a DUI arrest.

Adams, 49, was driving at about 2:30 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning. He was on the way home a birthday party for his wife, which took place in the Federal Building's Art Center off Main Street in Uptown. The South Carolina Highway Patrol stopped him at a checkpoint just yards away from his Cambridge Avenue home, and an officer detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from him. Because of that, the officer conducted a field sobriety test.

Are field sobriety tests in South Carolina always airtight?

Would you believe that it is possible to beat drunk driving allegations? The fact is that roadside tests are not always entirely reliable or trustworthy. Police officers may not administer them correctly, or the materials with which they examine your sobriety in South Carolina may be faulty. Officers may also over-exaggerate a defendant's level of intoxication, a situation that can be dismantled by a skillful attorney. An arrest for drunk driving -- even with damning evidence such as a horizontal gaze test -- does not mean that you are automatically considered guilty.

What exactly is meant by the term of "field sobriety tests?" A field sobriety test often consists of physical examinations that are intended to determine someone's level of intoxication. The problem is that intoxication is not specifically defined in many state statutes, except when it comes to blood alcohol content. Intoxication is often conceptualized as failing to have full control over someone's mental and physical faculties. However, a field sobriety test does not always evaluate the specific elements of function that determine whether someone is actually "sober" enough to operate a vehicle -- especially if the tests are not properly administered.

Zero tolerance for underage DUI

Many young people drink alcohol, despite laws against it. While of course they should obey all laws regarding the legal age for drinking alcohol in their state, they should also know that if they drink and drive, they will be facing zero tolerance laws for underage DUI.

In all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, it is illegal for anyone who is under 21 to buy or possess alcohol. That is important to note, since it renders those under 21 liable for being in possession of alcohol even if someone else bought it for them.

What is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test?

Police officers in South Carolina and other states are increasingly targeting alleged drunk drivers that they deem "hardcore" -- those who have been through the DUI system on numerous occasions. Authorities argue that those particular defendants have already mastered the standardized field sobriety test so that they can perform it while intoxicated, which is why they advocate for the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. That evaluation, also known as the horizontal gaze test, evaluates a driver's sobriety by observing the behavior of his or her eyes while looking side-to-side.

There are issues, of course, with the horizontal gaze test. Attorneys and judges both agree that the gaze test is unlikely to be admissible in court, even though evidence suggests that it is more effective at identifying intoxicated drivers with BAC levels between 0.8 and 0.12 percent. Although this test has long been considered subjective and inadmissible in court, more prosecutors are pushing for its use and attempting to lay proper groundwork for its ongoing implementation.

Women charged shown on dash cam video

In 2015, video cameras are ubiquitous. This includes dash cams, which are standard issue in police cars in many cities. One in Greenville, South Carolina, captured the extraordinary actions of a woman who has been charged with driving under the influence.

The woman was at first pulled over for a traffic stop. However, things allegedly escalated from bad to worse very rapidly. The woman is now faced with felony charges including attempted murder.

South Carolina using 'Summer or Slammer' DUI campaign

For many people, the last day of summer is Labor Day. While not the official end to summer, Labor Day does signal that summer is winding down. Over the Labor Day weekend, law enforcement in South Carolina hopes to reduce the number of accidents on the state's roadways.

According to a colonel with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, many fatalities have alcohol as a factor. He said, "That is why our troopers are partnering with other agencies for stringent DUI enforcement efforts surrounding Labor Day." The fatality numbers for this year between Memorial Day and the middle of August are up from the previous year -- 218 in 2015 and 181 in 2014. Fatalities from the first of the year through Aug. 20 are also up from last year -- 581 in 2015 and 476 in 2014.

What can affect breathalyzer tests?

Most people know that if they are pulled over while driving because they are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, they will probably have a breathalyzer test administered to them. However, it is important to understand what can affect the results of breathalyzer tests. Why? Mainly because if you're not under the influence of alcohol, but the breathalyzer indicates that you are, you can still be arrested.

With that in mind, take stock of the common items that can affect a breathalyzer test. They include some kinds of cough syrup, mouthwash and breath mints. Taking some of any of those can make a breathalyzer indicate that your blood alcohol content exceeds legally allowable levels for individuals driving a motor vehicle. You might be arrested because of that, even if you haven't had a single beer and are capable of driving safely.

What can I expect during a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety test.jpg

What should you expect when you get pulled over for drunk driving in South Carolina? Unless you have been through a traffic stop before, you probably are not aware of the procedures associated with field sobriety tests. It is imperative that drivers know the standard procedure for administering a standardized field sobriety test so that they can determine whether they have been treated unfairly by overzealous police officers looking for any evidence of intoxication.

What tests make up a field sobriety evaluation?

The standard field sobriety test involves three components. These include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, which measures the stability of your eye while tracking an object. Drivers who are intoxicated generally lack control of their eye muscles, causing jumping movements as they attempt to "follow" a moving object. Additionally, sobriety tests involve walk-and-turn and one-leg tests. These physical evaluations ostensibly demonstrate levels of intoxication by assessing motor skills. Drivers are expected to listen and follow specific instructions during these tests; those that are intoxicated are unlikely to succeed because they cannot process simple physical and mental activities concurrently.

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