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Holland & Usry, P.A.

Honest Answers From Your South Carolina Lawyer

When you’re faced with a major life event, you’re filled with questions and uncertainty. Get the straight answers you’re looking for from a South Carolina attorney.

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  • I was just served with family court paperwork. It looks like my husband is trying to get a divorce. It says there is a motion hearing in three weeks. What is a motion hearing?

    In the family court, a motion hearing, also called a temporary relief hearing, is a hearing before a judge where one or both parties seek relief. The term “relief” has a special legal meaning here: it means that one side or the other is asking the court to issue orders about how to conduct certain family functions for the immediate future.

    These hearings are usually short, often only 15 minutes, and the relief issued is temporary in nature.

    The court at a temporary hearing can address various questions, such as:

    • Which spouse/parent is to have custody of the children?
    • What sort of schedule for visitation with the minor children should be in place while the action is pending?
    • What will be each parent’s child support obligation?
    • Should one of the partners be obligated to pay spousal support to the other? If so, how much?
    • Who gets to control and use of marital property, such as houses and cars?

    It’s important enough that we should stress this again: any decisions reached from the motion hearing will be temporary. The arrangements can change (and probably will change) in the final decision made by the court.

    The idea is that before the court can make a final determination on such things as custody, visitation, support, and equitable division, among other things, there should be a merits hearing, where both folks can submit all the relevant and admissible evidence they reasonably choose, offer witnesses, and cross-examine the witnesses of the other party. These merit hearings or trials can last days. Before a lengthy trial can be scheduled, there is much work to be done, including the exchange of information and mandatory mediation.

    But some relief cannot wait ten months for a trial, such as spousal or child support if one spouse leaves the home and is not voluntarily assisting. So that’s why you and your attorney will request such a hearing.

    If you are faced with a matter in the family court and need to discuss with a family court lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry, P.A. toll-free at 888.230.1841 or locally at 864.582.0416 to set up a consultation.

     

  • When I appear at my temporary hearing with my lawyer, will I have to speak?

    Probably not. Motion hearings are for temporary relief. The law limits the sort of evidence that may be received by the court to pleadings, affidavits, and financial declarations. The rule does state for good cause shown, the court may rely on other evidence of testimony; however, this is very unusual, and rarely occurs.

    If you have carefully chosen a skilled and experienced family law attorney to represent you, he will be familiar with the procedures and requirements for the motion hearing. You should not have to worry about presenting evidence or speaking before the court.

    Your lawyer will argue your position by presenting the facts sworn to in the affidavits and financial declarations that are submitted to the court. The arguments are brief, usually no more than a matter of minutes. The judge usually does not ask questions directly to the spouses. If the judge has questions, he or she will usually ask the lawyer.

    If you are faced with a matter in the family court and need to discuss it with a family court attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry, P.A. toll-free at 888.230.1841 or by local call at 864.582.0416 to set up a consultation.

     

  • I just got arrested for DUI. What are my chances of beating the charge?

    DUI cases can be more winnable than most people think. But you can’t fully evaluate your case or properly develop defenses without the single most important piece of evidence: the video from your arrest and breath test—even if you refused the test.

    Unlike human witnesses, video cameras don’t conveniently forget facts or twist them in their favor. Cameras just record the truth. That’s why South Carolina law requires these videos during a DUI/DUAC arrest, almost without exception. Our state Supreme Court has observed the purpose of DUI videos is to prevent DUI trials from being “swearing contests.” You probably had a few of those as a child, where a dispute over pulled hair or spilled milk boiled down to “did too!” and “did not!” Because the penalties for DUI can be severe, the legislature wisely passed a law to protect you, officers, and juries from deciding cases based on who yelled best, last, or loudest.

    Video Evidence Can Be Vital to You DUI/DUAC Defense

    In our experience, videos are usually helpful to you, the one charged with the crime. The videos contain evidence vital to your defense, including:

    • Video law violations. The South Carolina video law requires officers to record specific aspects of their investigation and the breath test. An officer’s violation of the law can lead to dismissal, even if the evidence against you is overwhelming.
    • Your driving. That’s what the case is really about, right? We’ve seen videos where our client’s driving was so flawless, we wondered how he ever got pulled over at all. If a jury feels that way, you’re off to a good start in winning your trial.
    • How the officer did on field sobriety tests. That’s right, we said how the officer did. For a field sobriety test to be valid, officers must properly give you very specific instructions. You can’t be expected to pass a test when the instructions are wrong, can you?
    • Your conduct. Often the best way to tell when someone’s under the influence is how he or she acts. How you walked, talked, and responded to the officer’s everyday instructions can reveal a lot about how you weren’t under the influence. By the way, that does not include field sobriety tests—no one does anything like that, ever, except maybe tightrope walkers or the Karate Kid.

    In any case, the best shot you’ll ever have is with a trained professional. A skilled DUI defense attorney will know to demonstrate video law violations to convince a judge to dismiss the case, and to highlight how the evidence reveals your innocence for a jury to acquit you. You need an experienced lawyer who regularly handles DUI cases, since the law and the defenses can be highly technical and complex.

    If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Greenville, Spartanburg, or any nearby community, we’ll meet with you for free to give you a preliminary idea how we can help you and discuss in more detail how we can defend your case. If you have any other questions about DUI cases, check out other articles we have on this site or download our free report. Feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841, or email us or start a live chat right from where you are.

     

  • My husband died in a car crash driving a delivery truck for work. The crash wasn’t his fault. Can I get work benefits to help pay our bills?

    Yes. You qualify for South Carolina worker’s compensation death benefits. And the good news is, you qualify for the maximum benefit:

    Worker’s Compensation Death Benefits

    Limited burial expenses, up to $2500.

    Limited lost income benefits. The maximum benefit is a weekly check for two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage (called the “comp rate”), for a maximum of 500 weeks. This amount can sometimes be paid in a single check, but the amount will be reduced to present value (that is, discounted for expected inflation and other costs over the period covered). The base amount will be reduced by any workers’ compensation temporary disability checks that had been paid to the worker, if he did not pass away immediately.

    Your husband’s children and others who depended on your husband for support qualify to receive benefits, too. Whether they qualify for the maximum benefit depends on several factors. We explain the complicated calculations involved in a separate article on this website.

    Important: Because your husband passed away from a car crash that’s not his fault, you have access to compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, and maybe your own. While this compensation can be desperately needed, getting it the right way can be very tricky due to complex worker’s compensation laws. Talk to your workers’ compensation attorney for help understanding the details in your specific case.

    The emotional devastation of an unexpected work accident taking the life of a loved one is often worsened by plunging your family into financial crisis. You have rights and access to some relief, thanks to worker’s compensation and maybe the civil justice system. As hard as it is to keep going, fight for your family.

    If you’ve been forced into this battle in Greenville, Spartanburg, Union, or Cherokee counties, or anywhere else in South Carolina, contact our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers to explore every option to obtain every benefit you can. Feel free to use the easiest way for you to reach us—by email, by live chat from our site, or by a toll-free call to 888.230.1841 or local call at 864.582.0416. We’re waiting to hear from you.

     

  • I was just charged with driving while under suspension, first offense. I did not even know my license was suspended. The fine does not seem to be much. Should I just plead guilty and move on?

    Under almost all circumstances I advise against simply pleading guilty or paying the fine on a driving while under suspension (DUS) first offense charge. At the very least, if you have been charged with this crime you should speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to learn what actions would be in your best interest.

    The law in South Carolina says that a person who drives a motor vehicle on any public road of this state while his license to drive is canceled, suspended, or revoked is guilty of driving under suspension. For a first offense the person is to be fined $300 (and court costs which more than doubles the fine), or jail for up to 30 days, or both. However, if the driver’s license had been suspended for a DUI conviction, then the penalties become $300 plus costs, or a period of 10 to 30 days in jail.

    While there are exceptions, it’s typical that a person convicted of DUS first offense can avoid any jail time if he has the ability to pay the fine and court costs.

    The Second Line of Penalties: Extended License Suspension

    I cannot count how many times I have heard—after the fact—a variation of the following, “The officer told me if I plead guilty he would recommend the minimum fine and no jail time. I just thought it would be easier to get it over with because it would be cheaper than hiring a lawyer.”

    But is it really cheaper? Maybe not. In addition to the criminal penalties, there are also civil penalties, including a longer suspension of your driver’s license. The period of time for which a person’s driver’s license is suspended upon conviction depends on the original reason for his license suspension. Consider these examples:

    • If your license had been suspended for failure to pay a no seat belt fine, and if simply paying the seat belt fine and the reinstatement fee at the DMV would have allowed you to get your license back in the first place, the additional suspension is for only 30 days.
    • If your suspension was for some specific period, the extended license suspension upon conviction of DUS will be for a similar time period. For instance, if your license was suspended for six months due to a DUI first conviction, then you would incur an additional six months’ license suspension if convicted of DUS first offense.
    • In cases where there is not a defined period of suspension, the suspension may be extended for an additional three months.

    After you have fulfilled the criminal penalties and after your license suspension period, you may think everything is reset to normal. It isn’t. In almost all situations, before you can get your license back you are required to get SR-22 insurance. Folks sometimes call this drunk driving insurance. It is more expensive insurance for “risky drivers,” and it costs more money than a regular liability policy. You will have to carry this insurance for three  years, and the costs can be in the thousands of dollars. Also, you will have to pay reinstatement fees to the DMV before you are given your license back.

    You Can Fight DUS Charges in South Carolina

    Remember, just because you have been charged with DUS first offense does not mean that you will necessarily be convicted. You are entitled to a trial by judge or jury. Before you can be convicted, the state (usually the arresting officer) must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    One requirement is that the state must offer as proof a certified copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles. An additional requirement is that the prosecuting officer must demonstrate that you actually received notice from the DMV that your license was in fact suspended.

    It is important to treat a DUS first offense seriously, because the penalties you potentially face are so severe. If you are like most folks, you depend on a car to get you from point A to point B. Without a car, it is difficult to participate in other functions of life, such as employment, education, getting children to and from school, obtaining groceries, and many other daily activities.

    All too often, someone whose license is suspended because of a DUS conviction makes the decision to drive anyway, leading to another arrest. Each repeat arrest is treated more harshly, and it starts a downward spiral that can result in felony charges and convictions, along with an indefinite or permanent revocation of your right to driver in South Carolina—or any other state.

    If you have been charged with driving under suspension first offense, or any other driving-related charge, and would like to discuss it with the criminal defense lawyers at Holland & Usry, P.A., please do not hesitate to contact our office at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841. You may have certain defenses, and true cost of a DUS conviction is much more than a fine.

     

  • I got hurt badly by a hit and run driver in Duncan. What if the police never find him, or what if they do but he has no insurance? How will I ever pay all these medical bills?

    There’s hope for you. You can still get help from your own policy. Every driver in South Carolina must carry uninsured motorist coverage, also called UM, which pays if the at-fault driver cannot be caught, or has no liability insurance to cover your injuries.

    There are two important things you should know about UM:

    • The amount you can access is limited to the amount of your liability coverage. This is yet another reason you should get as high a liability limit as possible. The other important reason is you can only get as much underinsurance coverage (UIM) as your liability limits; see why we feel it’s the most important coverage you can buy.
    • The shocking truth about UM: Victims are often stunned to discover when you make a UM claim, your own insurance company fights against you.

    Also, UM can sometimes be stacked, similar to UIM. You may be able to collect more than the coverage on one vehicle if your household owns several vehicles. 

    The law of UM coverage and stacking can be very complex. If you’re hurt bad enough to need it, you should have an experienced car accident lawyer review your policy to make sure you don’t overlook any coverage—and to see if he can help enhance your claim to keep you from being shortchanged by your own insurance company.

    If you have any questions about UM for a serious car wreck in Duncan or anywhere in South Carolina, check out our other articles on this site and feel free to request our free report on South Carolina car crash cases. You can call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 for a free meeting, or start a live chat or email from right where you’re sitting. If you’re hurt too bad to come to us, we’ll come to you.

     

  • My wife and I had an intense argument yesterday morning, and today I was served with a petition for an Order of Protection. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. What is an Order of Protection?

    An order of protection is an order issued by the family court to protect an abused person by stopping the abuser from the ability to abuse, threaten to abuse, or molest the victim. The order forbids the abuser from communicating or attempting to communicate with the victim in any way, including preventing the abuser from entering the victim’s places of residence, employment, education, or other location as the court may determine.

    It has some teeth to it because a violation of this order is a criminal offense punishable by 30 days in jail or a fine of $200. Additionally, it may constitute contempt of court punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,500. If a police officer determines that a person has violated an order of protection, he may arrest the accused without obtaining an arrest warrant.

    A hearing for the order of protection is heard in the family court by a family court judge. If a petition is filed seeking an order of protection, the hearing can be heard within twenty-four hours. The person seeking the order of protection must show that the accused person committed some sort of abuse: physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the threat of physical harm.

    An order of protection is only available when the victim and the abuser are mutual household members, such as spouses, former spouses, persons who have a child in common, or a man and woman who are cohabitating or have formerly lived together. The victim can be a minor child.

    If an order of protection is granted, the person accused of abuse can be prohibited from any contact with the petitioner for a term from 6 months to a year. The court may also order temporary custody and visitation for any children; temporary financial support for both petitioner and the children; and temporary possession of a residence and personal property.

    Domestic violence and abuse is serious, and is treated seriously by our courts. A judge determines after trial whether to issue an order of protection. During the trial, both parties have the right to offer witnesses and cross-examine the witnesses of the other. The rules of evidence apply. It is not to be taken lightly.

    The family law attorneys at Holland & Usry, P.A., have handled many order of protection hearings over the years. We have both defended the accused and prosecuted on behalf of the abused. If you are facing an order of protection (or if you believe your safety requires an order be placed against someone) and would like to discuss it with one of our lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 to set up a consultation.

  • I got charged with DUI in Greer for blowing .09. The officer told me I can plead to DUAC. Isn’t pleading guilty to DUAC better than DUI?

    Probably not. "DUAC" is Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration. Pleading guilty to that is basically admitting you drove with more than the so-called "legal limit" of alcohol in your system, which is .08.

    Two Common Myths About South Carolina DUAC Laws:

    • DUAC is not a reduced charge. The penalties for DUAC are exactly the same as DUI. Some people prefer to plea to DUAC because it “looks” better, since they can tell others they didn’t get convicted of “drunk driving.”
    • DUAC does go on your criminal record, just like a DUI.

    The only way I’ve ever heard a DUAC helping someone who was charged with DUI involved a case where the accused held a very high-paying job in another state. His contract provided he could be fired for a DUI. It said nothing about DUAC, since this charge is essentially unique to South Carolina. He had a totally unwinnable DUI case. Since he could plead to DUAC without losing his job, it worked for him.

    This is not to say pleading to DUAC is always a bad idea. The first thing to do is hire an experienced DUI/DUAC attorney to thoroughly evaluate your case for every possible defense. An experienced defense lawyer can increase your chances of reduced charges, like reckless driving or a minor traffic violation. If an experienced DUI/DUAC lawyer tells you it’s in your best interest to plead guilty, at least you know you took your very best shot at avoiding a conviction and will still hopefully benefit from a thoroughly negotiated plea to a charge with the least possible consequences for you.

    Our Attorneys Are Here To Help With Your DUI/DUAC Case

    For more information on DUI cases in Spartanburg and nearby, check out our other articles on this site, including the ones below. You can also download our free report on these cases, called The Terrible Price of a DUI/DUAC Conviction and Defenses You Might Not Know About.

  • I’ve had a bad back for over 20 years. Recently, I twisted it at work in Greer and it got much worse. Does workers’ comp cover that?

    Yes. When a South Carolina work injury makes a prior injury worse, it’s still covered under workers’ compensation law.

    The involvement of a prior injury does complicate your claim. To get benefits, you’ll have to prove:

    • The work injury worsened the prior injury, or
    • The prior injury worsens the work injury.

    South Carolina law is very specific about the type of proof required to justify benefits in your situation. The law requires medical evidence showing you’re entitled to benefits despite the prior injury —meaning a doctor’s opinion or testimony to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, or medical records.

    In our example, if your bad back didn’t keep you from working or didn’t even bother you until you hurt it at work, you should be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. Importantly, if you satisfy the proof requirements, you can also be compensated for your permanent disability caused by the combination of the prior injury and your work injury. For an explanation how these benefits work, see the other articles on this site, especially those listed below.

    While the South Carolina workers’ compensation law helps workers whose prior injuries are made worse by work, it is not an easy ticket to ride. You must be very careful about submitting the proper proof to satisfy a skeptical insurance company who doesn’t want to pay you or, if the claim is contested all the way to a hearing, be sure the evidence satisfies the legal standard judged by the Commission.

    If you have a prior injury that got made worse by work, feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or 888.230.1841 to set up a free meeting to discuss whether your employer’s insurance company should help fix it and most importantly, to protect your rights to these important benefits you could lose if the claim is not presented properly. You can also send us an email or a live chat right from where you are.

     

  • I have only been married a couple of months. Am I entitled to an annulment?

    Probably not.

    An annulment is an order from the Family Court stating that a marriage is invalid, meaning the parties are to be treated as if they were never married. Our office is frequently asked if a person is entitled to an annulment, and the answer is usually no.

    The law states that only certain reasons—called grounds—will allow a marriage to be erased so thoroughly. The grounds for annulment in South Carolina are very, very limited.

    A spouse may be able to get an annulment if he or she can prove any of the following reasons applies:

    Failure to consummate by cohabitation

    If the marriage has not been consummated by the cohabitation of the parties, the Court may declare the marriage void and grant an annulment. Cohabitation is living together as husband and wife. It does not necessarily require sexual activity by the parties. Spending one night together likely makes a party ineligible for an annulment on this ground.

    Duress

    A marriage can be annulled where either party entered into the marriage without his or her consent. South Carolina law has said the duress, or being forced into marriage, must be so great that the person was unable to act as a free agent and the party being forced into marriage must have great fear of bodily harm.

    Fraud

    One may be entitled to an annulment if he or she can establish that the person to whom they are married lied about something essential to the marriage. There is only a handful of examples that courts have found to be fraudulent representations. Those cases include misrepresentation about a person’s sanity or insanity (this does not include treatment for mental illness); not being truthful about known impotency; not being truthful about known sterility; and inclination to have children when prior to the marriage it was agreed not to have any. Many examples are considered insufficient, such as misrepresentations about wealth, social standing, or a person’s character.

    Affinity and Consanguinity

    The terms affinity and consanguinity refer to close relationships as relatives. Some people are so closely related that they would be entitled to an annulment if they asserted this ground after having been married. For example, if a man were to marry a woman whom he later found out to be his sister, he or she would be entitled to an annulment. First cousins are not so close in relationship that they would be entitled to an annulment. There are other unusually close relationships that entitle a person to seek an annulment, such as a man marrying his daughter, granddaughter, mother, and so on—and a corresponding list for a woman who marries a relative just as close.

    The odds are if you are married, you are probably not entitled to an annulment; it will require a formal divorce to end your marriage. In rare cases, some grounds do allow an annulment. If you believe that you may be entitled to an annulment, please feel free to contact our family law attorneys at Holland & Usry, P.A., by calling 864-582-0416 or toll-free at 888-230-1841. Each case is different and we will be happy to talk to you about your case.

     

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