You just walked out of the Spartanburg County Jail after a night that started with innocent fun but became a nightmarish ordeal when you were charged with a DUI or DUAC. The shock of your arrest is fading away, and as you squint while your eyes get used to the sunlight again, the joy of your release quickly evaporates into the sense your life has spiraled out of control. You’ve got a lot of paperwork telling you to be different places at different times, and you have no idea what any of it means or what they’re going to do to you.
Take a deep breath: you can start to get a handle on your case by learning about how the system works. While you may not be able to control the system, and you need a lawyer to help you with it, knowing a little about the process will bring some peace in your life.
You may also have a license suspension case for refusing the breath test or blowing .15 or more. That’s a separate case we discuss on a separate part of our website—see our articles about that at the very end of this one.
Here are the basics of how a Spartanburg DUI/DUAC first offense court case works.
First Court Appearance: Bench Trial
Your initial court date is handled in magistrate’s or municipal court like any other traffic ticket—even though the consequences of a DUI/DUAC first offense are far more serious. The blue ticket the officer gave you will tell you the date, time, and address for the hearing. This hearing is called a “bench trial” because it is presented only to the judge—the “bench”—with no jury.
At Holland & Usry, we can use the bench trial to meet with the officer to try to negotiate a reduction of your charge, if you want. Even if he declines, it does give us a chance to find out a little more about your case and open the door for future negotiations to get the charge reduced. If we can’t reduce the charge, then we request a jury trial.
Even if your case sounds hopeless from the officer’s description, we do not plead people guilty to DUI/DUAC without first reviewing all the evidence the officer compiled. This is called the discovery process, addressed below. We always remember DUI is often a crime of the officer’s opinion and the video evidence may tell quite another story—the truth that can get you acquitted at trial.
Everyone accused of DUI/DUAC first offense has the right to see all the evidence in their case, whether it helps or hurts. To get it, we file a motion with the court, forcing State prosecutors to give us all the evidence they have.
This may be the most important part of your case, because the information we get from discovery forms the backbone of your defense. And remember: in criminal cases, some of the most important evidence is the evidence that’s not there—like when the video shows you didn’t stagger all over the place or slur your words.
If discovery is the backbone, the videos we get in it are the heart and lungs of your case—it’s hard to live without them. Even if you look bad on the videos, all hope is not lost. The video may show the officer failed to follow certain procedures required by South Carolina DUI/DUAC law. If so, your case can be dismissed, regardless of the rest of the evidence.
At Holland & Usry, we scrutinize your videos and compare them to the law to make sure the officer obeyed the law in making your arrest. If he violated the law, we prepare motions to dismiss or to have evidence thrown out.
DUI/DUAC cases are marathons, not sprints. Your case will probably not be called for trial for 12 to 24 months. When the case is set for trial, you get a notice about a month before. Sometimes this notice paves the way to more negotiations with the State that can get your case dismissed or reduced. If not, you go to trial.
In a nutshell, a trial works like this: you report to the courthouse and select six jurors to hear the case. Before the jury comes in to hear the case, we may have pre-trial motions to get the case dismissed or evidence thrown out. Sometimes even if the case isn’t dismissed, the judge throws out so much evidence we can get the case reduced then. If not, the jury comes in and we try the case.
At trial, before you can be convicted, the State must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to all six jurors.
Spartanburg DUI/DUAC first offense cases take up a lot of time and require doing a lot of little things right to help get you the best outcome possible. If you’ve been charged with DUI/DUAC, you owe it to yourself and your family to talk to an experienced DUI/DUAC lawyer about your case. If you want to learn even more about these cases, download our free report.
At Holland & Usry, we don’t just limit cases to Spartanburg. We can also handle them in Cherokee, Union, or Greenville County. You can always call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 for a free meeting or start a live chat or email right where you’re sitting. We’ll be delighted to give you a free meeting to discuss your rights and potential defenses.