Do You Get a Jury Trial for DUI Charges in SC?

You can get a jury trial for DUI charges in SC, whether your case is a DUI 1st offense in the magistrate court or a felony DUI in the Court of General Sessions.

The procedure for requesting a trial and the court dates you must attend before the trial is scheduled varies depending on the court you are in, though.

In this article, I’ll cover the basics of jury trials in DUI cases in SC, including:

  • How to request a jury trial if you are charged with DUI,
  • Differences between the magistrate courts, municipal courts, and General Sessions Court, and
  • The likely possible options you have if you are charged with DUI in Charleston, SC.

Do You Get a Jury Trial for DUI Charges in SC?

As with speeding tickets and other crimes, you are guaranteed the right to a jury trial in all criminal prosecutions by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Article I Section 14 of the SC Constitution has a corresponding provision:

The right of trial by jury shall be preserved inviolate. Any person charged with an offense shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; to be fully informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to be fully heard in his defense by himself or by his counsel or by both.

In the lower courts, you don’t automatically get a jury trial, though.

If you do not request a jury trial in the magistrate or municipal court, you must appear in court at the location, date, and time on your ticket. If you haven’t requested a jury trial and don’t have an attorney, the court will expect you to either plead guilty or have a bench trial with no jury.

Jury Trial for DUI Charges in Charleston County, SC

If you are charged with DUI or DUAC 1st offense in the Charleston County magistrate court or one of Charleston County’s municipal courts, you or your attorney must file a jury trial request within the deadline.

If you do not have an attorney yet and you are running out of time, the court can provide you with a form jury trial request that you can complete and return to them – ask them for a clocked copy for your records and to provide to your attorney.

Jury Trial for DUI Charges in the City of Charleston, SC

The procedure for requesting a jury trial in a Charleston County municipal court is the same as the procedure in magistrate’s courts.

The municipalities in Charleston County include:

  • Awendaw,
  • Charleston,
  • Folly Beach,
  • Hollywood,
  • Isle of Palms,
  • James Island,
  • Kiawah,
  • Lincolnville,
  • McClellanville,
  • Meggett,
  • Mount Pleasant,
  • North Charleston,
  • Ravenel,
  • Rockville,
  • Seabrook Island, and
  • Sullivan’s Island.

Jury Trial for DUI Charges in Charleston County General Sessions Court

If you are charged with DUI, DUAC, or felony DUI in General Sessions Court, you will not need to file a written jury trial request.

Your attorney will conduct an independent investigation of the allegations, gather evidence from all available sources, and obtain the evidence from the prosecutor that they intend to use against you.

If your case is not dismissed or sent to a diversion program, you will most likely receive a plea offer, and, if you do not accept the plea offer, your case will be placed on the jury trial roster.

What are Your Options if You are Charged with DUI in Charleston, SC?

Most DUIs, or any criminal charges, do not go to a jury trial, even when a jury trial is requested.

What are the possible outcomes if you are charged with DUI?

Dismissal

Everyone wants their charges dismissed.

In many cases, we can get the DUI charges dismissed based on the facts of the case, our independent investigation, constitutional violations, or the officer’s failure to follow SC’s mandatory videotape law.

Pretrial Diversion

DUI – driving under the influence – or DUAC – driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration – charges cannot be sent to Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or any diversion program.

In some cases, however, at the prosecutor’s discretion and based on the person’s prior record and other mitigating circumstances, a prosecutor can rewrite the ticket as reckless driving and send the reckless driving ticket to PTI, in effect allowing pretrial diversion for a DUI charge.

Plea

In many cases, a DUI defendant will accept a plea offer made by the state. Even if the case is not dismissed, favorable facts for the defense can lead to a dismissal of the DUI in exchange for a plea to other charges or a “rewrite” to a “reduced” offense like reckless driving.

Trial

When the state will not dismiss the charges, and the defendant will not accept the plea offer, the only option left is trial.

Your attorney will schedule a jury trial date at the roster meeting, if your case is in the lower court, or you and your attorney will appear in court when your case is placed on the trial docket in General Sessions Court.

Questions About Jury Trials for DUI Charges in Charleston, SC?

Charleston, SC DUI defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone focuses his law practice on criminal defense and DUI defense in the Charleston, SC area.

If you have been charged with DUI, DUAC, or any DUI-related offense, call Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us through our website to talk to a Charleston, SC DUI defense lawyer today.


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