Experience Defense for DUI Cases in Richland County
James R. Snell, Jr., has extensive experience in challenging Highway Patrol
and Sheriff’s Department DUI arrests made in Richland County and
charges brought by the City of Columbia and other area police agencies.
He and the other lawyers at our office regularly appear in the Richland
County DUI Court in negotiating and challenging DUI charges. For over
ten years our office has assisted those facing drunk driving and related
criminal charges work on favorable resolving their cases. Call us at (888)
301-3532 if you are ready to schedule an appointment with one of our DUI
We maintain offices in both Lexington and Columbia to assist you with your DUI case.
Obtain Our Free DUI Defense Report
James Snell published a free report to educate individuals charged with
any South Carolina DUI to understand their charge and their legal rights.
This information is critical for anyone who has been charged with DUI
to know before making any decisions on how to approach their case. You
can request your
free copy here.
Richland County DUI Court Procedures
Most Richland County DUI arrests are made by the South Carolina Highway
Patrol. A smaller number of arrests are made by the Sheriff’s Department.
A lesser number of cases may be made by other agencies such as the Department
of Natural Resources or the Department of Transportation.
Most individuals who are arrested in Richland County will be taken to the
Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, 201 John Mark Dial Drive, Columbia. There
they will be offered a videotaped breath test before being booked into
the jail. The results of that breath test can be used as evidence in the
DUI case. A refusal to take the breath test (or a subsequently requested
urine or blood test) can be used as the basis for an immediate implied
consent license suspension.
You will know if your case is pending in the central DUI Court if the address
written on your ticket is 1400 Huger Street, Columbia. If you appear in
court on the date and time written on your ticket you will be expected
to go in front of a judge right away and either plead guilty or be prepared
to have the judge find you guilty. One of the first things we do when
we are hired by anyone facing a DUI charge is to file a Notice of Representation
along with a Motion for Discovery demanding that the police turn over
the evidence that they have in your case. These materials, called discovery,
serve as one of the most important foundations for establishing a defense
to a DUI charge.
These materials usually include:
- Accident or police report
- Roadside Video From Police
- Field Sobriety Test Score Sheet
- Breath Site Video
- Breath \ Blood \ Urine Test Results
Once we receive the discovery material your case will be evaluated by James
R. Snell, Jr., as well as a second lawyer from our office. We will be
looking for all possible legal issues as well as factual issues that may
be present with your case. After having represented hundreds of individuals
charged with DUI we have assembled “checklists” to make sure
that all possible avenues of defense are considered. Here are just some
examples of what we look for in every case (our complete checklist is
over 200 points):
- Was there a valid, legal reason for the initial traffic stop?
- Did the officer actually witness our client driving?
- How quickly did our client pull over after seeing the blue lights?
- How many “vehicle in motion” clues did the officer include
in the incident report?
- How many passes did the officer make when conducting the HGN test?
- How many seconds total did the officer spend in conducting HGN?
- Did the officer’s flashlight, patrol car strobe lights, or passing
vehicles contribute to false results?
- Was our client’s head clearly visible on the roadside video during
the HGN test?
- Was Miranda properly given on the roadside?
- Regarding the Walk and Turn or One Leg Stand test:
- Was the road surface flat & smooth, or uneven & rough?
- Is our client an older adult, overweight, wearing problematic footwear,
or have any type of back or joint problems that could make testing difficult?
- Did the officer’s instructions to our client comply with his training
pursuant to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s
Student Participant Manual?
- Could the officer’s perception of an alcohol smell coming from our
client be in fact from diabetes or another medical condition?
- Was there actually probably cause to make the DUI arrest?
- Was there an illegal search of our client’s person or vehicle?
- Did the office provide proper instructions regarding the breath test?
- Was our client properly instructed they had a right to refuse the breath test?
Two lawyers from our office are always involved in the review of our client’s
DUI case to minimize the chances of anything slipping through the crack.
Before our client’s case comes back up for another court date we
will schedule an in-office, or at our client’s request a telephone
meeting, to review the legal and factual issues in the case. That way
our client can be prepared to consider any plea offers that may be made
(for example to reckless driving), or can otherwise be prepared to fully
challenge the case.
DUI Court vs. City Court
The Richland County DUI court handles cases brought by State as well as
County law enforcement agencies. If your DUI case was made by a town or
city police officer then your case will be assigned to a municipal court.
Examples of area municipal courts include:
- City of Columbia
- Forest Acers
- Archadia Lakes
Although the substantive DUI is the same regardless of which court your
case is in, there are differences due to the different personalities of
the judges, prosecutors, and officers in the city courts. In addition
to assisting clients in the county DUI court, we also regularly represent
clients in the area city courts.
What if you received a Notice of Suspension?
We want to help you get back to driving again legally as soon as possible.
Normally this can be done in as little as one week after you retain our
office. You will be eligible to obtain a Temporary Alcohol License allowing
you to drive anywhere in South Carolina after we file a petition with
the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. Technically when you are suspended
at the time of your DUI arrest (for either refusing an alcohol test or
submitting a high sample) you have two cases. One is criminal (in DUI
Court) and one is civil (in the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings). When
you retain our office we will represent you in both cases for the same
Can a Richland County or Columbia DUI be dismissed?
Yes. DUI charges can be dismissed in one of four ways:
The prosecutor can elect to voluntarily dismiss your case. This usually
doesn’t occur unless the police officer in your case is no longer
available or there is a substantial legal issue.
The judge can elect to dismiss your case for a valid legal reason. An example
would be if the police failed to follow the arrest procedures required
by law, or the prosecutor failed to timely provide discovery materials.
The court can find you not-guilty after a trial. If you choose to challenge
your case by going to trial, a not-guilty verdict will dismiss your DUI charge.
Dismissal by plea bargain. We may be able to negotiate a resolution with
the prosecutor in which your DUI case is dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
This might involve pleading guilty to other pending charges, or by having
the DUI reduced to reckless driving or another traffic offense.
20+ years ago area judges and police officers would sometimes dismiss a
DUI charge just because they thought someone deserved it. Maybe someone
had never been in trouble before, or a DUI conviction would cause them
to lose their job. But now since DUI is such a hot political issue DUI
cases are not dismissed unless there is a solid legal reason, or the defense
can establish reasonable doubt in a trial. Everyone who is seeking a DUI
dismissal now needs to hire a lawyer.
Can a DUI be reduced to reckless driving?
Yes. The prosecutors will reduce a DUI to reckless driving if and only
if there is a valid legal reason. Normally a reckless driving offer will
not be made until we can affirmatively show the prosecutor that there
is real uncertainty as to how the case will be resolved in court. Keep
in mind that in the event that there is a significant legal issue with
your case sometimes it is advisable to turn down plea offers such as reckless
driving and seek a total dismissal in court. We can help advise you on
all of your options as your case progresses.
While reckless driving is a substantially lesser offense than DUI it isn’t
without its own set of consequences:
- Mandatory suspension of a CDL license
- A “strike” towards either a habitual offender designation (if
you have two other very serious traffic offenses on your record), or a
“strike” toward a ninety day suspension (if you have another
recent reckless driving suspension on your record)
- 6 Points against your license
- A fine of up to $445
While most drivers who don’t have a CDL will never have to worry
about a reckless driving plea bargain resulting in a suspension, it is
possible for those with more problematic driving records. Everyone who
accepts a reckless driving reduction will see their car insurance rates
increase (although still likely much less than for a DUI conviction).
Do your lawyers have experience in defending DUI charges?
Yes. Attorney James Snell has been defending DUI charges since 2004. He
is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, South Carolina Association
of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and National Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers. He, along with our other attorneys, regular appear during terms
of DUI and traffic court in and around Columbia. He recently completed
the National College for DUI Summer Session held at the Harvard Law School.
All of our associate attorneys have also been specifically trained in
the area of DUI defense law, have attended DUI courses and continuing
legal education, For more information about our qualifications please
What is your next step?
Call us at (888) 301-3532 to request a free initial meeting with a DUI defense
attorney. Appointments are typically available the same or next business
day. When you come for your appointment please bring a copy of your ticket,
breathalyzer results, and any Notice of Suspension form that you received.
You will have a chance to explain the complete circumstances of your case
to an attorney and ask any questions that you might have.