What Happens if You Get Caught Driving Under Suspension in SC?
What happens if you get caught driving under suspension in SC?
The answer depends – were you driving under suspension? Was your license actually suspended or were you driving without a license, a different criminal offense that carries substantially lower penalties?
Are you able to get your license reinstated before your trial date?
Why was your license suspended? SC has very specific notice requirements that are different depending on why your license was suspended, and, at trial, the prosecution must prove that proper notice was given.
In most cases, we will get your driving under suspension charges dismissed, rewritten to another traffic offense that does not carry an additional suspension, or take your case to trial. If you have been charged with driving under suspension (DUS) in SC, do not plead guilty at your bond hearing and talk to a SC driving under suspension lawyer before your initial court date.
How to Win a Driving Under Suspension Trial in SC
What happens if you get caught driving under suspension in SC?
Hopefully, you talk to a SC traffic lawyer immediately and your case gets dismissed or resolved with a plea to an offense like “driving without a license” that does not carry an additional driver’s license suspension.
But, what if it doesn’t? What happens when you were caught driving under suspension and the officer or prosecutor refuses to dismiss or reduce your ticket?
Depending on the reason your license was suspended, the type of notice that the DMV sent to you informing you of the suspension, and whether the officer or prosecutor can prove that the notice complied with SC law, you may be entitled to a directed verdict at the mid-point of your trial.
Driving Under Suspension (DUS) Notice Requirements in SC
To convict you for driving under suspension (DUS) in SC, the prosecution must prove that you were driving, that your license was suspended when you were driving, and that you had proper notice of the suspension.
Many police officers, some prosecutors, and even some magistrates and municipal judges do not understand SC’s notice requirements in driving under suspension cases. After the state rests their case without proving notice, your attorney will argue a motion for directed verdict, laying out the notice requirements that apply in your case.
In State v. Smith, 330 S.C. 237, 241, 498 S.E.2d 648, 650 (Ct. App. 1998), the SC Court of Appeals explained the SC statutes that determine the type of notice that must be given when the DMV suspends a person’s license.
Suspension for a Prior Driving Under Suspension Conviction or Loss of Points
If you are convicted of driving under suspension in SC, your license is suspended again under SC Code Section 56-1-460.
If your license is suspended because of a prior conviction for driving under suspension, what kind of notice is required for a new suspension?
SC Code Section 56-1-465 says that, if you get a new suspension while your license is already suspended for a prior driving under suspension conviction, the notice requirement is “the same as is required when the license is suspended due to loss of points as provided in Section 56-1-810.”
So, we need to look at 56-1-810. SC Code Section 56-1-810 says that, if you get a new suspension while your license is currently suspended for loss of points – 12 points or more – then the DMV must notify you of the suspension in writing and it must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
This means that, if your license was suspended because of 1) a prior DUS conviction or 2) a loss of points (12 points), the prosecution must introduce into evidence a return receipt as proof that you received the notice of suspension. If they don’t, you then have grounds for a directed verdict motion (the court dismisses your case before it goes to the jury).
Suspension for Any Other Reason
SC Code Section 56-1-350 says that any time the DMV cancels, revokes, or suspends a person’s driver’s license, notice must be given pursuant to 56-1-360.
SC Code Section 56-1-360 says that notice of suspension can be sent by regular mail and that the State can prove that the notice was sent by introducing into evidence a certificate from “the director of the department or his designee:”
When notice is required concerning a person’s driver’s license, the notice must be given by the Department of Motor Vehicles by depositing the notice in the United States mail with postage prepaid addressed to the person at the address contained in the driver’s license records of the department. The giving of notice by mail is complete ten days after the deposit of the notice. A certificate by the director of the department or his designee that the notice has been sent as required in this section is presumptive proof that the requirements as to notice of suspension have been met even if the notice has not been received by the addressee.
It doesn’t matter if you actually received the notice, if the DMV had an incorrect address, or even if you knew that your license was suspended – unless the original suspension was for a prior DUS or loss of points, the certificate is enough to establish notice at trial.
Driving Without a License in SC
The offense of “driving without a license” does not carry an additional license suspension in SC and it does not carry a loss of points. Sometimes, if the officer or prosecutor will offer it to you, driving without a license is an acceptable alternative to a driving under suspension conviction.
Other times, it may have been the appropriate charge in the first place. If you were charged with driving under suspension but you never had a license, your charge should be dismissed, or you may get a directed verdict from the court at the halfway point of your trial.
Why Mitigation is Important in Driving Under Suspension Cases
As Sun Tzu said, it is best to win without fighting…
Many police officers and prosecutors do not want to suspend your license again – they understand that people can easily get locked into a cycle of driving under suspension, habitual traffic offender status, jail, fines, and court costs – all the while trying to support a family and hold down a job that requires transportation.
In some cases, we may be able to get your DUS charge dismissed or rewritten as a driving without a license ticket if we can show that you have complied with all the requirements of your original suspension and regained your license before your court date.
In other cases, it may help to be able to show the officer or prosecutor the progress that you are making on getting your license back. Other types of mitigation that may help in any kind of criminal case include letters of reference, documentation that you work full time or are enrolled in school, volunteer work that you have done, the fact that you support your family, or any other information that speaks to your character and the likelihood that you will not be in trouble with the law in the future…
Driving Under Suspension Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Charleston traffic offense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone accepts criminal defense cases in the Charleston, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach areas of SC, including driving under suspension, habitual traffic offender, and other traffic tickets.
If you need help with a driving under suspension charge, call now at (843) 808-2100 or send us an email to talk with a Charleston, SC driving under suspension lawyer today.