If you are charged with driving under suspension in SC (DUS), can you fight it?
Should you try?
The answer is that you most definitely should fight it – many people get caught in a cycle of DUS tickets that result in additional suspensions and may also result in a license revocation as a habitual traffic offender.
You need to drive to get to work to support your family, to get to school, to church, or to buy groceries in town. But, if you drive on a suspended license, you may be arrested, and your license may be suspended for even longer – how do you break the cycle?
Driving Under Suspension in SC – Break the Cycle
DUS tickets can become a revolving door from which some people have a difficult time escaping – jail, suspension, jail, additional suspension, jail, revocation. How do you break out of the rut and get back on the road with a legit license?
First, don’t drive if your license has been suspended. Get family or friends to help you get where you need to be or use public transportation – it’s difficult, but it’s temporary.
Second, find out if you are eligible for a temporary license and get one if you can. Some first-time offenders may be eligible for a route-restricted license, persons who have been convicted of DUI or who have an implied consent violation may be eligible for an Ignition Interlock Device Restricted License, and there may be other options.
Third, know what your status is. Find out how long your suspension is, whether there are multiple consecutive suspensions, and what fines and fees you will owe before you can get your license reinstated.
Finally, do not plead guilty to driving under suspension in SC.
So, you messed up and got behind the wheel, got pulled over, and now you have another DUS ticket. If you plead guilty to it or are found guilty, you will have another consecutive suspension, and you may be declared a habitual traffic offender if you have enough traffic violations on your record.
Driving Under Suspension in SC – Can You Win?
How can you beat a ticket for driving under suspension in SC?
The most obvious defense is that you are not guilty – if you were not driving, you are not guilty of DUS. If you were driving, but your license is not suspended, you are not guilty of DUS.
But what if you were definitely driving, and your license is definitely suspended? Is there any point in contesting it?
You may still be able to avoid a DUS conviction (and an additional license suspension) if the state is unable to prove that you were served with proper notice of the suspension, or your attorney may be able to negotiate a re-write of your ticket to an offense like driving without a license that does not require an additional license suspension or loss of points….
Driving Under Suspension in SC Notice Requirements
To convict you of DUS in SC, the state must prove 1) that you were driving, 2) that your license was suspended when you were driving, and 3) that you received proper notice of the license suspension.
So, what is proper notice under SC’s driving under suspension laws? It depends on why your license was suspended.
The General Rule: SC Code Section 56-1-350 says that notice of a license suspension, cancellation, or revocation must be given “as prescribed in Section 56-1-360.”
SC Code Section 56-1-360 says ”[w]hen 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.”
At trial, the state must produce only a “certificate by the director of the department or his designee that the notice has been sent as required.” Although you can dispute that the notice was sent, a certificate by the director is “presumptive proof” that will be enough to convict you.
If the state does not produce a certificate during their case in chief, you should be entitled to a directed verdict after the state rests their case.
Suspensions for a Prior DUS or Loss of Points: When you are convicted of driving under suspension, you receive an additional consecutive license suspension. If your license is currently suspended due to either 1) a prior DUS conviction or 2) loss of points (you accumulated 12 or more points for traffic violations), then there is a different notice requirement.
SC Code Section 56-1-465 says that, if your license has been suspended under SC Code Section 56-1-460 (the driving under suspension statute), then the required notice will be the same as “when the license is suspended due to loss of points as provided in Section 56-1-810.”
If your license is suspended for loss of points (or a prior DUS), SC Code Section 56-1-810 says that you must be notified by certified mail – return receipt requested. This means that, if your license was suspended for either a loss of points or a prior DUS, it is not enough for the state to produce a certificate from the director.
They must produce a green return receipt to prove that the DMV sent the notice of suspension to you by certified mail. If they do not, you should get a directed verdict after the state has rested their case.
Driving Under Suspension in SC – Mitigation and Pretrial Negotiations
So far, we’ve been talking about trial practice and strategy. But do you really want to go to trial and risk a conviction or an extended appeal process?
Many DUS cases are won not because of fancy lawyering at trial, but because you were able to present enough mitigation to persuade the officer or prosecutor to either dismiss your ticket or rewrite it to driving without a license (which has no effect on your license and does not carry a suspension).
The truth is most police officers and prosecutors are decent people who understand the revolving door of license suspensions. They don’t want you to lose your license, and they don’t want to hurt you or make it difficult for you to support your family. They want you to get legal and stop breaking the law…
While your case is pending:
- Get your license straight if possible – police or prosecutors are less likely to cause you to have another suspension if you can show that you did what you needed to do to get your license restored before your court date.
- If you can’t get your license restored before your court date, make as much progress towards it as possible – pay any outstanding fees or fines, complete any other requirements that will be an obstacle to restoring your license, and provide documentation to your attorney.
- Provide mitigation materials to your attorney – character reference letters from family, employers, church members, or others, proof of employment, proof of any volunteer work you have done or charitable contributions you have made, and any other materials that your attorney suggests may help you when your attorney is negotiating with your prosecutor.
When that is not enough, go to trial if your attorney recommends it.
Don’t get trapped in a cycle of license suspensions, license revocations, and jail time. If you are charged with driving under suspension in SC, do not plead guilty and get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your case immediately.
Traffic Violations and DUS Defense Lawyer in Conway, SC
If you have been charged with any traffic violation including driving under suspension in SC, get a local criminal defense attorney with over twenty years of trial experience on your side as soon as possible.
Contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.