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DUI Legal Process in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the police can choose not to release the defendants when they are charged with a DUI. Instead, if the officer believes the driver was driving while under the influence, the officer will arrest the driver and bring them before a judge. When the defendant appears in court, the judge will read the defendant the charges they are facing. The judge will also tell the defendant possible punishments if convicted. This is also where the judge will inform the defendant they have a right to a public defender or a court-appointed attorney for all the proceedings. Typically, this is where the court will determine to release the defendant on bail. If bail is granted, the court can require various things from the defendant before allowing him to be released on bail.  When the defendant being charged with a DUI is a repeat offender or where the punishment is greater than $500, the defendant will have a right to a preliminary hearing conducted by a magistrate. It is up to the defendant to decide whether he wants a preliminary hearing or not. If the defendant wants a preliminary hearing, he must request one within 10 days of being read his rights.


An arraignment in South Carolina is conducted for the defendant to enter a plea. This is also where the judge reads the official charges against the defendant and asks the defendant to enter a plea. The defendant can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will go on to trial.

Preliminary Hearing:

The defendant can request a preliminary hearing. This is where the court will determine whether there is enough evidence to prove that a crime was committed and whether the defendant is probably guilty of that crime. The State can present witnesses and evidence that the defendant was driving while under the influence. The defendant will also have a chance to refute the witnesses and evidence on their own. If the court decides the defendant is probably guilty of the DUI, the defendant will have to plead guilty or go to trial.


There is a right to a jury trial for a operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant in South Carolina. The jury will consist of twelve people. The prosecution has the burden of proving all the elements of the DUI charges beyond a reasonable doubt. During the trial, the defendant’s attorney can cross-examine any arresting police officers and witnesses. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will return a unanimous verdict.  If the jury finds the prosecution did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be found not guilty and there will be a dismissal of all charges. If you are found guilty, you can appeal to a higher court for review.

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