Charleston DUI & Drug Crime Lawyer
A DUI or drug charge is a serious matter. You can face steep fines and jail time, even if you’ve never been arrested for anything before. After you pay your fine or serve your sentence, you’ll find that a criminal record can dog you forever. Especially if you are young and just starting out in life, employers, apartment managers, banks and others will eye you with suspicion and pass you over in favor of less controversial candidates. Many jobs and professions require clean driving records or clean criminal records before they will issue or maintain a professional or occupational license.
DUI and drug charges are serious, but don’t despair. You have the right to defend yourself, and often options are available that can keep you out of jail or let you walk away with a clean record. Prosecutors have to prove every element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and between here and there are many steps and opportunities to get a favorable outcome. Having a zealous, dedicated attorney on your side is key to getting a positive result out of what could otherwise be a disaster. Charleston DUI & drug crime lawyer Gus Anastopoulo is here for you whether you are a college student at the College of Charleston charged with possession or drug trafficking or a business executive nabbed for DUI on your way home after work. Wherever you are coming from, call the Gus Anastopoulo Law firm at 843-310-5555, and get yourself the advice and representation you need to achieve an excellent result when you are facing DUI or drug charges.
How Do You Defend Against DUI Charges in Charleston?
It is illegal in South Carolina to drive under the influence of alcohol where your ability to drive is materially and appreciably impaired. With a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more, the state assumes you are impaired. If your BAC is between .05 and .08%, the police can use other evidence to back up their charges, such as observations of you drifting or weaving, floating through stop signs, or driving erratically.
If convicted of DUI, you can be hit with $400 in fines, which climb to $992 once all assessments and surcharges are added in. You can also be sentenced to anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days in jail. Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months. On a second offense, fines jump to a minimum of $2,100 or a maximum of $5,100 ($10,744.50 with assessments and surcharges), and expect to spend at least five days or up to a year in jail. Your driver’s license will be suspended for one year. Fines and jail time and license suspensions continue to grow for a third offense. A fourth offense comes with a one-to-five-year prison sentence and a permanent revocation of your driver’s license.
The primary tool for law enforcement in DUI cases is the breathalyzer. By driving on South Carolina roads, you’ve given your implied consent to submit to a breath test when required by police. Refusal to test when required results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days, or 180 days if you have a prior conviction or suspension within the last ten years.
Even if you blow over .08%, the case against you is not open-and-shut. You might still have defenses available. For instance, did the police have probable cause to stop you in the first place? You can’t just be pulled over for no reason. Did the police have probable cause to make you take a breath test, or did they base their suspicion on unreliable “field sobriety tests”? Was their testing machine accurate, and did they inform you of your rights and the consequences of refusing a test? These are just some of the areas your attorney can explore to challenge the prosecutor’s case and get your charges dropped or reduced to a lesser charge like reckless driving. Given the enormous consequences of even just one DUI conviction, it’s well worth it to discuss your case with a skilled and knowledgeable Charleston DUI defense lawyer.
What if I’m Arrested for Possession or Sale of a Controlled Substance?
Drug charges, even for possession of small amounts of marijuana, can land you in prison for years. This is serious, but don’t get scared and plead guilty because the City Prosecutor is intimidating you. Get a Charleston criminal defense attorney on your side so you can get good advice and make sound decisions in your best interests.
Drug charges in Charleston generally fall into two broad categories of Possession and Sale, with Possession with Intent to Sell falling somewhere in between. Penalties for conviction on a possession charge can range from six months in jail and $1,000 in fines to two years in jail and $5,000 in fines. The precise penalties depend on the alleged quantity and type of drug involved.
Possession with intent to sell can be charged if you are found in possession of as little as one gram of cocaine, two grams of heroin or 15 tabs of ecstasy. Prosecutors often charge possession with intent whenever they can, hoping you’ll plead guilty to simple possession to avoid the heavier charge. You might have valid defenses to a possession charge as well, though. For instance, you could be in a common area where drugs are present and get arrested for possession. If those weren’t your drugs, if you didn’t know what they were or didn’t know they were there, you might not be guilty of possession.
The more serious crime of drug trafficking can be charged for selling, trading, making, delivering or giving away controlled substances, or for bringing people together to facilitate a drug transaction. Trafficking can be charged for larger quantities, such as ten pounds of pot, ten grams of coke or meth, or four grams of heroin. Penalties for a conviction can be steep, even for a first offense: one to ten years for marijuana or three to ten years for cocaine.
Is Marijuana Legal in South Carolina?
If you are a student at the College of Charleston coming from out-of-state, you might be surprised at the strict laws against marijuana still in place here. South Carolina does not allow recreational marijuana, and laws for medical marijuana are narrow and tightly controlled. Here in Charleston, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense that can land you in jail for 30 days or hit you with a $200 fine. For a subsequent offense, possible jail time jumps to a year while fines skyrocket to $2,000. That’s for possession of less than an ounce of pot.
With more than an ounce, you could be charged with trafficking or sale. The penalty for sale with less than ten pounds is five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines for this felony offense. For ten pounds or more (up to 100), you would face one to ten years in prison, with a mandatory minimum one-year prison term.
If charged with possession on a first offense, it’s possible to get conditional release, a pretrial intervention that allows you to serve a term of probation, after which your record will be wiped clean. This form of diversion can be an excellent outcome when facing possession charges by a zealous prosecutor.
Help with DUI and Drug Charges in Charleston is a Phone Call Away
DUI and Drug charges are serious, but there are often strong defenses available regarding the constitutionality of searches and seizures, misidentifications of people and things, unreliable witnesses, problems with the chain of custody, and more. Don’t give up or give in, and don’t talk to the police or prosecutors. Instead, exercise your right to an attorney and call the Gus Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston at 843-310-5555. We’ll take the time to go over your case, explore your options, and help you make the right choices for the best chances at a positive outcome in your drug arrest. Call any time for immediate assistance.