DUI Appeals in Conway, SC, and Horry County, SC

How do you file a DUI appeal in South Carolina?

If you are convicted of driving under the influence in General Sessions Court, or one of Horry County’s magistrate courts or municipal courts (City of Myrtle Beach, City of Conway, or Town of Surfside Beach, for example), you can appeal your conviction to a higher court.

In this article, we will cover the basics of how to appeal a DUI conviction, including:

  • DUI appeals from the magistrate court and municipal court,
  • DUI appeals from the Court of General Sessions,
  • DUI appeals from the Court of Common Pleas, and
  • When a DUI sentence must be “stayed” on appeal.

Note – if you have been convicted of DUI or DUAC in a SC court, you should file your Notice of Appeal immediately unless your attorney is filing post-trial motions.

Ask your trial lawyer to file the Notice of Appeal on your behalf – make your request in writing if possible – even if you intend to retain another attorney for the appeal.

How Do You Appeal a DUI Conviction in South Carolina?

The procedure for filing an appeal from a DUI conviction is different depending on what court you were convicted in.

If you were charged with DUI or DUAC 1st offense, your case is most likely in the magistrate court or a municipal court, and you must file your DUI appeal in the Court of Common Pleas.

Note that the Court of Common Pleas is the “civil side” of South Carolina’s Circuit Court. The Court of General Sessions is the “criminal side” of South Carolina’s Circuit Court.

So, civil cases – including appeals from criminal convictions in the lower courts – are filed in the Court of Common Pleas.

Criminal cases – like DUI 2nd offense or greater – are filed in the Court of General Sessions. Minor criminal cases – like DUI or DUAC first offense – are usually heard in the magistrate or municipal court.

DUI Appeals from Magistrate Court

SC Code § 18-3-10 provides that any person who is convicted of a crime by a magistrate court can appeal their conviction to the Court of Common Pleas for the county in which they were convicted.

You must:

  1. File the notice of appeal with the circuit court clerk (the Court of Common Pleas),
  2. State the grounds for the appeal in your notice of appeal, and
  3. Serve the notice of appeal on the magistrate and the prosecuting attorney.

Who Files the Record on Appeal?

The magistrate is responsible under SC Code § 18-3-40 for filing with the Circuit Court the notice, “the record, a statement of all the proceedings in the case, and the testimony taken at the trial as provided in Section 22-3-790.”

What happens if the magistrate doesn’t file a copy of the record?

Believe it or not, this happens, and the appellate courts have said that it is up to the appellant to force the magistrate to comply with § 18-3-40 by filing a Writ of Mandamus.

DUI Appeals from Municipal Court

The procedure for a DUI appeal from one of Horry County’s municipal courts is the same as the procedure for an appeal from the magistrate court.

Although the conviction was in a city court, you will appeal to the county’s Court of Common Pleas.

DUI Appeals from the Court of Common Pleas

If you lose your appeal in the circuit court (if the Common Pleas judge sides with the prosecutor and upholds your conviction), it’s not over.

If the Common Pleas judge was wrong on the law, you can and should file a second appeal to the SC Court of Appeals.

If the Court of Appeals also denies your appeal, you can then ask the SC Supreme Court to hear your case – note that the State can also file a further appeal from the Court of Common Pleas or the SC Supreme Court.

SC DUI Appeals from General Sessions Court

If you were charged with DUI 2nd, 3rd, or 4th or subsequent degree, your case was most likely in General Sessions Court, and your appeal will be filed in the Court of Appeals.

Appeals to the SC Court of Appeals

Unless your case involves a SC constitutional question, your appeal from a General Sessions DUI conviction will most likely be filed in the SC Court of Appeals.

There are much more detailed rules for filing an appeal in SC’s appellate courts. For example, SC’s appellate rules contain requirements like:

  • When the initial briefs must be filed,
  • When the final briefs must be filed,
  • How to file the Record on Appeal and what material must be included in it,
  • Notice requirements for ordering and receiving transcripts,
  • Redacting sensitive information like social security numbers,
  • Details like how briefs should be bound, how many copies must be filed, font size, paragraph spacing, margins, and page limits, and
  • Deadlines for each stage of the process.

Appeals to the SC Supreme Court

Either party, if they lose in the Court of Appeals, can:

  1. File a motion to reconsider based on new information, and/or
  2. Ask the SC Supreme Court to hear the case.

Appeals to the SC Supreme Court are not “of right,” and the appealing party must first file a petition for “certiorari” asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

As with appeals to the Court of Appeals, the rules for appeals to the Supreme Court are contained in the SC Appellate Rules.

Can Your Sentence Be “Stayed” on Appeal?

SC Code § 18-3-50 says that the magistrate must grant bond to a convicted defendant once they file their notice of appeal (“Upon service of the notice the magistrate shall, on demand of the defendant, admit him to bail…”).

This means that, at every DUI trial in the magistrate or municipal court, you should have ready 1) a Notice of Appeal, and 2) a copy of § 18-3-50 to argue for release on bail should the court sentence you to jail time.

Questions About DUI Appeals in SC?

If you have been charged with DUI, DUAC, or another DUI-related offense in Myrtle Beach, Conway, or anywhere in the Horry County area, or if you have been convicted of DUI and need to file a DUI appeal in Horry County, contact DUI Defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner now at (843) 248-7135 for a free consultation to find out how we can help.


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