An arrest for a DUI is serious, even if an arrestee has no prior criminal record. A Charleston first-offense DUI lawyer could represent a defendant’s interest in county or municipal court following drunk driving arrest. Reach out to a DUI attorney today for legal representation.

How Charges are Heard

When a person is charged with a DUI in Charleston, their case is heard in the magistrate court in Charleston County or different municipal courts in downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, or other cities in Charleston County. The specific jurisdiction depends on the law enforcement officer who makes the initial arrest. With a county charge, the individual is arrested by the Charleston County Sherriff’s Office. For a municipal court charge, the person is arrested by the municipal court’s law enforcement department.

The manner in which prosecutors handle first-time DUI charges depends on the facts of the particular case. Usually, when someone does not have a prior DUI, prosecutors may be willing to resolve a charge as long as the individual was not grossly intoxicated and there were no aggravated circumstances.

In Charleston County, many of the judges are reluctant case to put someone in jail unless they have a prior record. Judges generally go along with the recommendation of the local prosecutor on a DUI first-offense charge, but every case is different. A Charleston first-offense DUI lawyer could negotiate with prosecutors to mitigate potential penalties.

Penalties for a First-Offense DUI

The penalties for a first-time DUI in Charleston are a jail sentence up to 30 days, a fine, or 48 hours to 30 days of community service depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the individual’s blood alcohol content at the time of their arrest.

Currently, no diversion programs are available for a DUI offender in Charleston. Probation in South Carolina is not offered on DUI first charges because it is not an option for a municipal or magistrate court case.

Building an Effective Defense to a First-Offense DUI Charge

Regardless of whether a defendant has a first-time DUI charge or a second, third, or subsequent DUI charge, an experienced Charleston DUI lawyer will build a client’s defense in the same way. They could conduct an investigation, obtain experts as needed, and determine whether the client needs medical intervention to deal with underlying substance abuse issues which may help with mitigation. By conducting an in-depth investigation, having a deep knowledge of case law, using experts, and building up mitigation, an experienced DUI lawyer could build a successful defense on a first-time DUI charge.

A criminal defense attorney may look for specific pieces of evidence that could weaken the prosecution’s case. They may consider whether or not there is any evidence of intoxication on the video that law enforcement is required to provide from the scene and from the breathalyzer room. The lawyer could also determine whether the arresting officer who charged the client with a first-time DUI has the requisite training and knowledge necessary to administer field sobriety tests or administer a breathalyzer test. Often, experienced DUI lawyers look for evidence that contradicts what a law enforcement officer put into an incident report regarding the person’s conduct on video and tries to address any underlying issues their client may have to assist with mitigation.

Contact a Charleston First-Offense DUI Lawyer As Soon as Possible

Even a first-time DUI offense could have serious implications for your future. A conviction on your criminal record might negatively affect your ability to find housing, employment, or education in the future. In addition, your relationships with family and friends could become strained. Do not leave your future to chance, reach out to a Charleston first-offense DUI lawyer for legal representation.