When you are charged with DUI in South Carolina you are given an initial
court date, typically just a few weeks later. This is for a “bench
trial”, and it is an appointment for you to go in front of a judge
and plead guilty or have the judge decide your case.
The fastest way to resolve a DUI case is to go to the first court date
and plead guilty. Any steps made to dispute the case add time to the process.
We are hired by those who do not want to plead guilty, and who also are
trying to avoid being convicted of DUI. With the DUI conviction comes
the permanent criminal record, license suspension, ADSAP, SR-22, and interlock
device. Our clients are seeking to avoid those penalties if at all possible.
Our first step is to file paperwork with the court notifying them that
we are contesting the charge. This will automatically cancel the first
court date (this is a legal procedure honored in every court in South
At the same time we file discovery motions. This is to require the officer
and\or prosecutor to turn over materials that they have about the case.
This usually includes items such as the roadside video, bodycam video,
narrative incident report, and the score sheet from any field sobriety
tests administered (tests such as the officer looking into your eyes,
or asking you to talk a straight line).
Most area courts will then schedule a pre-case meeting, prior to any contested
trial date. This is a chance for the defendant to potentially accept any
proposal to dismiss and\or reduce charges. The rule for clients in our
office is that DUI charges must be dismissed and\or reduced to our client’s
satisfaction, or we do not accept any deal. If a deal is accepted it can
be finalized at the pre-case meeting (at pre-case meetings nothing happens
that our client doesn’t agree to).
In many area courts it can take 3-5 months for a DUI case that is resolved
by an agreement (such as a dismissal\reduction). Cases that require a
contested court date may take longer. Several years ago the average time
was significantly long (regularly one year or more), however new procedures
have speed things up in most (but not all) courts. Cases involving a blood
or urine test can also take additional time due to the fact it may take
6 months or more in order for SLED to conduct their analysis.
The exact time a DUI case takes is heavily dependent on the court the case
is assigned to. Each court has their own docket and own way of moving
cases. There is no set time-frame or rule that says how long the court
is allowed to take to schedule the case. Many times people think lawyers
have some procedure to “push the case back”, but a long waiting
period is usually just an automatic result of the court docket.