Charleston, SC Driving Under Suspension (DUS) Lawyer
If it’s your first time, a driving under suspension charge may not seem like a big deal. Until you realize the long-term impact that a conviction for DUS can have in SC…
If you are charged with DUS:
- In most cases, you will be taken to jail;
- If convicted, you can be sentenced to more jail time;
- If convicted, your license will be suspended again for the same amount of time, and it will be consecutive (the new suspension begins when the old one ends); and
- If you have three or more major traffic violations – including DUS, DUI, or reckless driving – within three years, your license will be revoked as a habitual offender.
How Do I Get My SC Driver’s License Back and Keep It?
If your license is suspended, don’t drive. If you mess up and you are charged with driving under suspension, do not plead guilty – in most cases, we can get the charges dismissed, negotiate a re-write of the ticket to an offense that does not carry an additional license suspension, or we may win your case at trial.
How Do I Win a SC Driving Under Suspension Case at Trial?
The state must prove three things in a DUS trial:
- You were driving;
- Your license was suspended at the time you were driving; and
- You had notice of the suspension.
If the state does not prove each of the elements of a crime beyond any reasonable doubt, jurors can find you not guilty at trial.
On the other hand, if the state presents no substantial evidence for any one of the elements, the court should “direct a verdict,” meaning that you are acquitted as a matter of law and the case does not go to the jury.
What Kind of Notice is Required for Driving Under Suspension in SC?
There are two different notice requirements that the state must prove, depending on the type of license suspension. The statutes that describe the notice requirements can be difficult to follow (for laypersons, attorneys, and judges). Let’s look at them:
- S.C. Code 56-1-350 says that notice of suspension must be given as outlined in S.C. Code 56-1-360.
- S.C. Code 56-1-360 says that notice of suspension must be mailed to the driver’s last known address in your driver’s record – a certificate from the director of the department is presumptive evidence at trial that they have met the notice requirement (you can still rebut the presumption with testimony that you did not receive the notice, if true).
- S.C. Code § 56-1-460 is the driving under suspension statute – it is illegal to drive while your license is suspended, and, if convicted, there is an additional suspension.
- S.C. Code § 56-1-465 says notice for a suspension under S.C. Code § 56-1-460 should be the same as when a license is suspended for loss of points under S.C. Code § 56-1-810.
- S.C. Code § 56-1-810 says that, if a driver’s license is suspended for loss of points (accumulation of 12 or more points on the license), notice must be sent certified mail, return receipt requested.
How Does the State Prove Notice at Trial?
Depending on the type of license suspension, the above statutes require two types of notice:
- If your license was suspended for loss of 12 or more points or if the suspension was a penalty for a previous conviction of driving under suspension, the prosecutor must produce a notice that was sent from the DMV by certified mail, return receipt requested; and
- For every other license suspension, the prosecutor must produce a certificate from the director of the department that states the notice was sent to your last address on file with the DMV.
In some cases, when there have been multiple license suspensions, it will be necessary to analyze your driving record to determine which suspension was in effect at the time you were pulled over – for example, if your license is suspended for an implied consent violation, regular mail was sufficient, and the state must produce a certificate from the director of the DMV.
On the other hand, if your license was suspended for an implied consent violation, you were then convicted of driving under suspension, the original implied consent violation is over, but you are now suspended because of the DUS conviction, the state must produce evidence that you were given notice of the new suspension by certified mail, return receipt requested…
Are There Any SC Appellate Opinions That Discuss Notice in DUS Cases?
The notice requirement was affirmed by the SC Court of Appeals in 1998 in State v. Smith, 330 S.C. 237, 241, 498 S.E.2d 648, 650 (Ct. App. 1998). The Court in Smith pointed out that the notice requirements, although you must read several different statutes to understand them, are clear and unambiguous.
Smith also affirms that, if the state does not produce evidence at trial that you were served with the proper notice of suspension as required by SC law, the court must direct a verdict in your favor.
SC Driving Under Suspension Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston
Grant B. Smaldone represents clients in criminal defense cases throughout Charleston and Eastern SC, including traffic offenses and license suspension issues.
If you have been charged with driving under suspension in Charleston, SC, get help now before you are caught in the revolving door or SC license suspensions – call now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation about your case.