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South Carolina Breathalyzer law will not be applied retroactively

Legislation involving drunk driving is an ever-changing area of law in many states. The changes many states are contemplating involve the installation and ignition interlock devices and other consequences that result when a driver is charged with a crime and convicted for drunk driving. In 2009, the state of South Carolina passed legislation stating that a Breathalyzer test must be administered within two hours of a driver’s arrest.

A South Carolina man that was arrested for drunk driving in 2008 recently tried to challenge his case by claiming that this statute, passed into legislation the year after his arrest, should retroactively apply to his case. The arrest occurred at the 2008 Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally. According to police reports, the man allegedly failed to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist when making a left hand turn.

The truck driver’s alleged failure to yield caused the 44-year-old motorcycle driver to crash into the rear of the man’s truck. The collision left the motorcyclist with fatal injuries. The 62-year-old driver was arrested at 10:15 in the evening and was not given a Breathalyzer test until 12:32 the next morning, which was over two hours later. The test registered a 0.15 BAC and he was charged with felony DUI.

When the man’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the results based on the 2009 legislation, a Circuit Court judge granted the motion and the results were therefore suppressed. However, an appeals court recently reversed that decision. According to the appeals court, a recent Supreme Court ruling specifically stated that a statute should not be retroactively applicable unless it specifically states that it will operate in that manner. Because the 2009 legislation did not make such a statement, the appeals court reversed the Circuit Court decision.

The penalties associated with drunk driving convictions can be quite serious and may include a prison sentence or monetary fines. It is always helpful to hire a DUI defense attorney to serve as an advocate for the defendant. An attorney will do their best to prevent a conviction or lessen the penalties that may be associated with a conviction.

Source: Myrtle Beach Online, “Appeal court reverses Breathalyzer ruling in Myrtle Beach restaurateur’s fatal DUI case,” David Wren, Oct. 30, 2013

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