DUI Appeals in Charleston, SC – Driving Under the Influence Appeals

How do you file a DUI appeal?

If you went to trial for driving under the influence in Charleston, SC, and you were convicted, that isn’t necessarily the end of the story.

The consequences for a DUI conviction – prison, fines, SR-22 requirements, ADSAP, license suspension, ignition interlock device (IID), a permanent record for drunk driving that can never be expunged… It’s just too much.

That’s why you should fight DUI charges. If necessary, try your case to a jury. If necessary, appeal the conviction. If necessary, try your case to a jury a second time. When appropriate, file a post-conviction relief action.

Keep fighting until you win, or until you run out of options.

For many people charged in a “run-of-the-mill” DUI case, your attorney will be able to get your charges dismissed or negotiate an outcome that doesn’t include a DUI conviction. In other cases, however, you will be faced with a choice of 1) pleading guilty to DUI or 2) trying your case to a jury.

If you go to trial, and you are convicted, what then?

How do You File a DUI Appeal in South Carolina?

A conviction for DUI at trial is not the end of the story – you should immediately file a Notice of Appeal (unless your attorney is filing post-trial motions, in which case your time to file your Notice of Appeal is extended).

Even if you are going to use a different attorney for your appeal, you should immediately ask your trial lawyer to file the Notice of Appeal on your behalf because, unless you file post-trial motions, you have a strict deadline to file your appeal.

How to Appeal a DUI Conviction in the Magistrate Court or City Court

When someone is convicted of DUI or DUAC 1st offense in the magistrate court or the city court (Charleston municipal court, for example), they can appeal the conviction to the Circuit Court of the county where they were convicted (Charleston County Court of Common Pleas for Charleston City Court, for example, or Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas for the City of North Charleston’s municipal court).

After filing the Notice of Appeal, your DUI appeals lawyer should then get a copy of the audio recording of the proceedings in the lower court and have a transcript made by a court reporter.

The lower court is responsible for sending a record of the proceedings to the Circuit Court (called the “Return”), but the appellant (you) is responsible for making sure the Circuit Court receives a copy of the Return and all evidence from the trial in the court below.

A non-jury hearing will be scheduled in the Common Pleas Court (civil court), where a Circuit Court judge will hear arguments and decide to grant or deny the appeal.

Either side – State (or City) or Defendant – can then appeal to the SC Court of Appeals, and the procedure will be the same as for a DUI appeal from General Sessions Court.

How to Appeal a DUI Conviction in General Sessions Court

SC’s appellate rules govern appeals from DUI trials in General Sessions Court (DUI or DUAC 2nd offense or greater or felony DUI).

The rules for appeals from General Sessions Court (or to appeal a Circuit Court’s denial of an appeal from the magistrate or municipal court) are much more detailed than the rules for appeals from the lower courts, including details like:

  • Font size, spacing, binding, margins, and page counts for appellate briefs,
  • Ordering transcripts and providing notice to the opposing counsel and the appellate court,
  • Selecting material to be included in the Record on Appeal,
  • Filing initial briefs, the Record on Appeal, and final briefs,
  • The length and deadlines for Reply briefs,
  • Material that must be redacted from all filings, like social security numbers, dates of birth, and minors’ names, and
  • Oral arguments and when a case may be decided based on the written briefs without oral argument.

If they lose the appeal, either party can 1) file a motion to reconsider, or 2) request certiorari from the SC Supreme Court (ask them to hear the case). If the SC Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the briefing/appellate process begins again.

Trying the Case to Win the Appeal

There are cases where people are simply forced into trial, whether they want a trial or not.

When the State, for whatever reason, refuses to make a plea offer that you can accept (which could be a reduction to a traffic violation, a complete dismissal, or no jail time, depending on the charges, the facts of the case, and your goals), you must either 1) plead guilty to DUI or 2) go to trial.

What if you go to trial, you lose the trial, and you are sentenced to jail? That’s not necessarily the end of the world or your case.

You can immediately – right there on the spot in the courtroom – provide your Notice of Appeal, and your attorney can then argue that the Court must grant bail while your case is pending on appeal.

If your trial is in the magistrate court, SC Code § 18-3-50 says that, once you file your Notice of Appeal, the magistrate shall – it is mandatory – grant you bail pending the outcome of your appeal:

Upon service of the notice the magistrate shall, on demand of the defendant, admit him to bail in such reasonable sum, and with good sureties, as the magistrate may require, with conditions:

(1) To appear at the court appealed to and at any subsequent term to which the case may be continued, if not previously surrendered, and so from term to term until the final decree, sentence or order of the court thereon;

(2) To abide such final sentence, order or decree and not depart without leave; and

(3) In the meantime to keep the peace and be of good behavior.

In every criminal trial, we should make as many motions and objections as we can, because some of those motions or objections will result in a reversal on appeal if the trial judge denies them.

Each pretrial motion, objection to inadmissible testimony, or request for jury instructions is an opportunity to win your case on appeal if the jury doesn’t acquit you of the charges.

DUI Lawyers 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.