Folks who come to us with DUI/DUAC cases often have a burning question: Why in the world did the officer arrest me in the first place? That’s a great first question! We actually build your defense from that, leading the jury to conclude he shouldn’t have.

Your arrest should be captured on video. But before you roll your eyes, I’ll tell you in our experience, these videos often help you way more than they hurt. Sometimes they even lead to an unexpected dismissal when the officer violates South Carolina’s strict videotaping law.

These are the steps we’ve found almost every DUI arrest to contain:

The Stop

Usually, the officer pulls you for a traffic violation. It could be drifting across lanes, an improper turn, or speeding. But sometimes it’s not; we’ve had clients who got pulled for no headlights in a well-lit area, resulting in a DUI charge. Regardless of the reason for your stop, we use these videos to show the jury every single thing you did right while driving, building to the conclusion you weren’t impaired.

Initial Interaction Between You and the Officer

When the officer strolls up to your window and asks for your license and registration, this is usually where his report reflects the preverbal “strong odor of alcohol about your person.” By the way, this proves nothing about the amount you consumed or whether it impaired you. He may also claim you fumbled with the documents or had trouble answering his questions. The video can help us here. But it’s not a stretch to say that “strong odor” gives the officer enough to move to the next step.

Roadside Investigation

At this point, the officer asks you to get out of your car. Your exit and walk to the back of your car is important: did you lurch out or need support to make it to the back? Most folks don’t, indicating they are not impaired. Officers usually begin interrogating you about what you drank and how much, before moving to the next step—which in our experience is usually a foregone conclusion.

Field Sobriety Tests

Only three field sobriety tests are “approved” as standardized: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand. While they seem to generate a lot of officer confidence, we’ve had success defeating them in court by exposing them for what they are: strange, bizarre, and unexpected. These “tests” are pretty much irrelevant to whether a normal person drives impaired, so we don’t put much faith in field sobriety tests, as we have explained in an earlier article.

You almost certainly didn’t pass them. The question an experienced DUI lawyer can leave with the jury is, “Who could?” But for the officer, there is only one thing left to do.


Sadly, you know all too well how that goes. In our experience, this entire investigation—threatening your freedom and reputation—usually takes around 10 minutes.

You Deserve Better

If you can’t believe you got arrested, your instinct is a strong indication you might have a winnable case. But you can’t expect to do any better alone in court than you did on the roadside that night. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can get the evidence in your case, then look for ways to actually use the investigation against the officer by highlighting facts you’re not impaired, showing the officer made mistakes and leapt to conclusions, and help explain unhelpful facts to help you win.

At Holland & Usry, we pride ourselves on finding defenses our clients didn’t even know about. If you’ve been charged with a DUI you don’t understand, send us an email to start the process towards winning your case.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.