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DUI Charges Can Be Beaten Put Our Experience to Work for You in Richland County DUI Court

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 if you are ready to schedule an appointment with one of our DUI defense attorneys. 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
  • Bythewood
  • 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 all-inclusive fee.

Can a Richland County or Columbia DUI be dismissed?

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.

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.

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 click here.

What is your next step?

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.

Call us today at (803) 359-3301 to request a free initial meeting with a DUI defense attorney. Appointments are typically available the same or next business day.

  • Super Lawyers
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • 10.0 Superb Rating on Avvo
  • Accredited Business by the Better Business Bureau
  • The National Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • National College for DUI Defense

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