Criminal Law

Criminal Defense Attorneys in Columbia SC

Charged with a Crime in South Carolina?

Your words and actions matter greatly when you are charged with a crime. It is important to follow the following guidelines if you want the best chance of having a criminal defense law firm successfully defend your case.

 

Whether you need a DUI attorney, a criminal traffic attorney, or any other kind of criminal defense lawyer, please reach out as soon as possible after you are charged with a criminal offense. The sooner you can involve a trusted criminal law firm, the more smoothly your case will proceed.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers understand that you require the utmost attention.

If you have been charged with or are under investigation for a crime, it is critical that you seek professional legal counsel as quickly as possible.

If you are going to safeguard your livelihood, property, and freedom, you need experienced legal representation. Criminal law defense attorneys at the Columbia SC law firm of Burriss and Ridgeway have solid courtroom experience and take every possible action to manage this potentially stressful experience. We help make the process as smooth as possible and ensure that you are well-positioned for success.

Our lawyers defend your rights utilizing all possible means to reduce your risks associated with the charges.

The law firm of Burriss & Ridgeway handles cases in Magistrate, State, and Federal courts. Our experienced criminal law team looks forward to assisting you.

 

We handle criminal driving, drug offenses, DUI, and traffic offenses.

Driving Offenses

Each state has different laws but most traffic offenses are classified and penalized based on the local law, any prior convictions of the offender, and if the offense led to property damage, bodily injury, or death.

There are three classes of traffic violations in South Carolina:
  • Traffic Infractions
  • Misdemeanors
  • Felonies
 

Traffic infractions are not criminal offenses. Misdemeanors and felonies are both criminal traffic offenses.

Traffic Infractions

Most driving-related offenses fall into this category which is the least serious type of traffic offense. A traffic infraction is an act or omission that does involve breaking the law but is not criminal.

 

Common traffic infractions include:
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign or stoplight
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Failing to yield appropriately
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Speeding
 

This type of offense is usually a “strict liability” offense which means that the driver can be convicted whether they intended to break the law or not.

Penalties generally involve a traffic ticket, a fine, points on the driver’s record, and/or traffic school. If a driver gets enough points, their auto insurance premiums go up and eventually, their license may be suspended.

Traffic infractions are often prosecuted in traffic court,  not criminal court. Drivers who plead not guilty must come to court for a trial by judge. Sometimes a driver can skip court by pleading guilty and paying the fine in advance (by mail or online).

Misdemeanors and Felonies

Each jurisdiction has its own laws to decide what criminal traffic offenses are misdemeanors and which ones are felonies. And certain traffic offenses that would usually be infractions can become criminal offenses if they are egregious enough. Misdemeanors can also become felonies in certain situations like if a driver has offended before or if the offense involves significant damages, injuries, or death.

Criminal Traffic Violations

Some examples of criminal driving offenses would be:
  • Driving without a valid license
  • Driving without proper insurance
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
  • Fleeing from law enforcement
  • Hit-an-run (leaving the scene of an accident)
  • Racing
  • Reckless driving
  • Speeding 30mph or more above the speed limit
  • Vehicular homicide/manslaughter

 

Repeated offenses may carry greater charges and may cause a misdemeanor charge to become a felony. A traffic offense may be increased to a felony if someone is injured, a death occurs, property is destroyed, or there is a threat of injury or property damage.

If you are caught committing a misdemeanor, expect to be taken into legal custody immediately. You’ll have to post bond to get out of jail. And you will need a good criminal defense attorney.

Felonies are the most serious kinds of crimes. They involve the greatest potential threat for danger to other people and property. You’ll want to connect with the best criminal law attorney you can find if you find yourself in this situation.

Penalties for a Traffic Misdemeanor generally involve a prison sentence to the county jail of less than one year and a maximum fine of $1000 in most states. But most misdemeanors result in only a few days in jail if any at all.

Penalties for a Traffic Felony are greater. They often involve greater fines and can include a prison sentence of more than a year. Someone who has committed a traffic felony may have their license suspended or permanently revoked. They may have to go to driver’s training and their record will have points added to it. Other penalties include that the person’s car may be impounded, they will have a criminal record, and they may need to have a breathalyzer installed in their car in order for it to run.

Drug Offenses

Drug laws exist to help protect people from substances that could be dangerous to use or abuse without proper medical supervision. Some medications/drugs can cause people to become addicted and to be willing to harm themselves or others. 

In the interest of public and personal safety, the government regulates these substances to try to prevent astronomical economic, societal, and relational costs that abuse of these drugs may create.

Drug Laws in South Carolina

Most state drug laws address smaller crimes like simple possession. Charges under this category are usually classified as misdemeanors and punishments usually involve probation, short local jail sentences, and fines.

Most federal drug laws address bigger issues like trafficking and convictions for these kinds of charges carry harsher punishments and longer sentences.

 

Possible Charges for federal and state criminal drug charges
  • Manufacturing – This includes the cultivation of plants to be used to make illegal substances 
  • Distribution and Trafficking
  • Possession of controlled substances

Trafficking Offenses

Federal trafficking penalties are steep. The penalties become more and more severe the greater the quantity of illegal substances that were trafficked.

For Cocaine, Fentanyl, Heroin, LSD, PCP

Larger Quantities

First Offense

  • 10 years to life (20 years or more than life if death or serious injury occurred)
  • Up to $10 Million fine for an individual, up to $50 million if a group

 

Second Offense

  • 20 years to life (life imprisonment if death or serious injury occurred)
  • Up to $20 million fine for an individual, up to $75 million for a group

 

Third Offense

  • Life imprisonment
  • Fine of up to $20 million for an individual, up to $75 million for a group

Smaller Quantities

First offense

  • 5-40 years (20 years or more if a death or serious injury occurred)
  • Up to $5 million fine for an individual, up to $25 million fine if a group

 

Second offense

  • 10 years to life (if death or serious injury results to others, then life imprisonment)
  • Up to $8 million for an individual, up to $50 million for a group

South Carolina drug laws

Marijuana

First Offense: 10 – 100lbs

  •  1 – 10 years 
  • $1,000 fine

 

Second Offense

  • 5 – 20 years 
  • $15,000 fine

Cocaine

First Offense: 10-28g

  •  3 – 10 years
  • $25,000 fine

 

Second Offense

  • 5 – 30 years
  • $50,000 Fine

Controlled substances

A controlled substance is a drug/medication that has a significant potential for abuse or addiction. It is called “controlled” because the government creates laws to direct its use or distribution.

There are various classifications of controlled substances called, “schedules” under federal and state law.

Schedule I

Generally, illicit/illegal drugs like marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, heroin, etc… that tend to only have high abuse potential, lack of safety, and no accepted medical use in the US. (Recently some state laws have changed regarding marijuana.)

Schedule II

Strong prescription narcotics or stimulants with high abuse potential but with therapeutic uses, as well, in specific situations like certain stimulants and narcotic pain medications. These medications can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Schedule III

This class includes certain prescription narcotics, and anabolic steroids, etc… that are not as addictive as Schedule II prescriptions. They have an abuse potential greater than that of Schedule IV or V substances.

Schedule IV

Medications with some abuse potential or addictive potential that are not generally as dangerous as schedule IIIs. This class includes some anxiety medications, sleeping pills, and mild narcotics.

Schedule V

Narcotics with mild abuse potential, generally anti-tussive cough preparations, and a limited amount of certain narcotics like codeine/guaifenesin. The abuse potential is limited. This class of medications used to be widely available over-the-counter in pharmacies and patients could sign for them and show an ID to purchase them. (Although still legally over-the-counter, many of these medications are no longer available without a prescription at most pharmacies today.)

Drug Offense Statistics

It’s estimated that drug and alcohol abuse costs society over $110 billion a year.

“2018 Crime in South Carolina” publication based on incident reports submitted to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) by state and local law enforcement agencies http://www.sled.sc.gov/documents/CrimeReporting/SCCrimeBooks/2018%20Crime%20In%20South%20Carolina.pdf

  • South Carolina’s arrest rate for drug law violations increased by 3.1% from 2017 to 2018. From 1991 to 2018 the arrest rate increased by 100.3%.
  • 1,326 Drug violation arrests in Richland county in 2018 https://www.dea.gov
  • In 2018 the DEA reported 26,645 domestic arrests

 

Drug Use Impacts (Fatalities and Financial)

https://www.scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/Opioid_Prescription_in_South_Carolina_Oct-2018.pdf

  • In 2017 there were 1006 fatal drug overdoses in SC

 

https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-generals-report.pdf

  • In 2015, 66.7 million people in the United States reported binge drinking in the past month and 27.1 million people were current users of illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs
  •  In addition, in 2014 there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths including 28,647 people who died from a drug overdose involving some type of opioid, including prescription pain relievers and heroin
  • Substance misuse and substance use disorders also have serious economic consequences, costing more than $400 billion annually in crime, health, and lost productivity.

 

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

  • More than 67,300 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2018, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.

If you have criminal charges against you relating to drug use, possession, distribution, or drug manufacturing, you need the best criminal lawyers on your team.

South Carolina DUI laws

South Carolina imposes strong penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC). DUI and DUAC laws determine blood alcohol level legal limits, testing rules, and penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The goal is that drivers should not be impaired so that they can operate their vehicles safely.

Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits in South Carolina

  • Less than 0.05 = a person is considered not to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • 0.05-0.08 = No inference that a person is acting under the influence of alcohol but other evidence in the case may be used to help determine guilt of a DUI or innocence and may need to consult a dui lawyer.
  • Above 0.08 = inferred that a driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and would need to consult a dui defense attorney.

Under 21 BAC Limits in south Carolina

  • Less than 0.05 = a person is considered not to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • 0.05-0.08 = No inference that a person is acting under the influence of alcohol but other evidence in the case may be used to help determine the guilt of a DUI or innocence and may need to consult a DUI lawyer.
  • Above 0.08 = inferred that a driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and would need to consult a DUI defense attorney.

Commercial Drivers BAC Limits in south Carolina

0.04% = a commercial driver could be convicted of a DUI and would be unable to drive a commercial vehicle for one year if they:

  • Are convicted of a first DUI offense driving any vehicle.
  • Drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04%.
  • Refuse a BAC test.

Don’t try to handle  DUI charges yourself. Look for the best DUI lawyer you can find who can help you launch a DUI counterattack against your charges. A quality criminal law office can provide the resources you need to fight this and to protect your rights throughout the process.

Implied Consent in South carolina

Anyone who drives a vehicle in the state of South Carolina automatically gives consent for drug and alcohol testing by law enforcement. A driver who refuses blood alcohol content (BAC) testing can expect to have their license suspended for 6 months for a first offense or 9 months if they have had a prior DUI or license suspension in the past 10 years.

If you are charged with a DUI, you need a good DUI lawyer near you ASAP. Do not attempt to handle your legal case yourself, it will not end well. Choose a criminal law firm near you that has experience and can help you wisely navigate the legal system.

DUI Offense Statistics

Statistics from NHTSA.gov in 2018

Total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in SC 

  • 305 (29% of traffic fatalities)

Total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in USA 

  • 10,511 (28% of traffic fatalities)
  • Of these, 67% involved a driver with a BAC of greater than 0.15

An average of 1 alcohol-related death occurred every 50 minutes during 2018.

Average cost of a DUI – According to a survey by NOLO, the average overall reported cost was about $11,900 including all attorney costs, fines, car insurance premium increases, and lost wages.

South Carolina Criminal DUI Penalties

First Offense

DUI or DUAC – Misdemeanor

  • BAC under 0.10%
    • Up to 30 days in jail
    • $400 fine
    • 6-month license revocation
  • BAC 0.10-0.16%
    • Up to 30 days in jail
    • $500 fine
    • 6-month license revocation
  • BAC over 0.16%
    • 90 days in jail
    • $1000 fine
    • 6-month license revocation

Second Offense

DUI or DUAC – Misdemeanor

  • BAC under 0.10%
    • Up to 1 year in jail
    • $5,100 fine
    • 1-year license revocation
  • BAC 0.10-0.16%
    • Up to 2 years in jail
    • $5,500 fine
    • 1-year license revocation
  • BAC over 0.16%
    • Up to 3 years in jail
    • $6500 fine
    • 1-year license revocation

Third Offense

DUI or DUAC – Misdemeanor

  • BAC under 0.10%
    • Up to 3 years in jail
    • $6,300 fine
    • 2 or 4-year license revocation
  • BAC 0.10-0.16%
    • Up to 4 years in jail
    • $7,500 fine
    • 2 to 4-year license revocation
  • BAC over 0.16%
    • Up to 5 years in jail
    • $10,000 fine
    • 2 to 4-year license revocation

Fourth or Subsequent Offense

DUI or DUAC – Felony

  • BAC under 0.10%
    • Up to 5 years in jail
    • Permanent license revocation
  • BAC 0.10-0.16%
    • Up to 6 years in jail
    • Permanent license revocation
  • BAC over 0.16%
    • Up to years in jail
    • Permanent license revocation

Sometimes, in addition to these penalties, an ignition interlock may be mandatory when the driver is permitted to drive again.

Judges may also require drivers to have a DUI assessment, complete a DUI program, or go to a drug treatment program as part of the penalty.

Looking for a criminal law attorney in south carolina?

We’ll be glad to meet with you to see if we can help you put your life back together, minimize your penalties, and work to protect your rights during your legal battle.