Generally, people understand that they have the right to refuse the breathalyzer test if they are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). However, a majority of those same people do not understand the consequences of losing their driver's license if they fail to take the breathalyzer.
If you are arrested and charged with DUI in South Carolina and refuse to submit to the breath test, your driver's license will be suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles for a period of six months. This is true even if you receive a favorable outcome in your DUI case, either by way of a dismissal of the DUI, a reduction in the charge, or a verdict of not guilty. However, South Carolina provides for an opportunity to challenge the driver's license suspension by requesting an administrative hearing. This administrative hearing is separate and independent from the DUI trial. Typically, the attorney you retain will request this administrative hearing for you which must be requested within thirty days from the date of suspension, which is usually the date of arrest.
Upon requesting the administrative hearing, you will be mailed documents that will allow you to obtain a Temporary Alcohol License. Once you receive this paperwork, personally take it to the DMV, pay the fee and a Temporary Alcohol License may be issued to you. This Temporary Alcohol License is an unrestricted license throughout South Carolina. In other words, it operates as a regular license throughout the state and there are no route restrictions once it is issued. This Temporary Alcohol License does not allow you to drive outside the State of South Carolina and typically remains in effect until the administrative hearing. If you have a Commercial Driver's License, please consult with a DUI attorney as the issues are more complex.
There are a number of factors that play out at an administrative hearing. Some attorneys require their clients to be present, although it is not mandatory. Some officers will not appear, or they will appear and elect to not enter any testimony on the record. Some officers prosecute the issue of a driver's license suspension and will enter testimony on the record. Regardless of the testimony presented at the administrative hearing, the hearing officer will either uphold the driver's license suspension or rescind the driver's license suspension and reinstate the person's driving privileges. Should the officer rescind the driver's license suspension, your license is fully reinstated pending a resolution of your DUI case.
If the suspension of driving privileges is upheld, the Temporary Alcohol License will remain in effect only until the hearing officer issues his/her decision and sends notice to the person that the license is suspended. Once the decision is rendered and notice received, the person may apply for a Route Restricted Driver's License. In order to obtain a Route Restricted Driver's License, you must be employed and/or enrolled in college. This Route Restricted Driver's License only permits you to drive to and from work and school and in the course of work and school.
In addition to the consequences of the DUI trial itself and the consequences of the administrative hearing, there are other consequences associated with a DUI arrest, such as having to participate in ADSAP, R-22 insurance requirements, and potential consequences from your employer.
It is our hope that you never have to face any of these issues, but in the event that you or you know someone that has been arrested or charged with DUI, please contact Finklea Law Firm to discuss your case and to avoid the unintended and often avoidable consequences.