Should You Plea to Reckless Driving in a South Carolina DUI Case?

Sometimes a Plea to Reckless Isn’t A Good Idea

When people charged with DUI or DUAC seek representation, they are not just looking for a DUI lawyer in Charleston to go in and beg for the best deal they can get. They are looking for an attorney to advise them of what to expect, what the possible outcomes are, negotiate zealously, prepare the case for trial, and to advise them of ALL of the consequences of any possible conviction. A common DUI or DUAC negotiation in South Carolina results in the defendant to plead to reckless driving, along with some other stipulations such as alcohol classes. What some people, and even some lawyers, don’t know, is that a reckless driving plea can result in serious consequences against the person’s driver’s license.

Multiple Reckless Driving Convictions

If a South Carolina driver receives two reckless driving convictions in a 5-year span, that driver will receive a 90-day suspension of his driving privileges. The driver will not be eligible for a route-restricted or provisional license. Also, the driver will have to carry SR-22 insurance for 3 years in order to drive after the suspension is over. Therefore, a person charged with DUI should be sure his lawyer knows of any previous criminal convictions or traffic offenses he received in the past 5 years.  While most experienced DUI lawyers will catch this, it doesn’t hurt to send a quick email or make a quick phone call to be sure the lawyer knows. When comparing two reckless driving offenses, the DMV looks to see whether the offense dates (date of arrest) are within 5 years. The conviction dates are immaterial. This is important because a lawyer can’t stall a reckless driving plea in order to get past the 5-year mark.

Habitual Offender Status

Being declared a “habitual offender” in South Carolina can be devastating. It begins as a 5-year driving suspension with no possibility of a route restricted or provisional license. After the first 2 years, an habitual offender can try to have the suspension reduced or terminated, but there is no guarantee. If there are no arrests or driving violations, the chances of getting the suspension improves greatly, but it is still 2 years of catching rides with taxis and friends. A driver may qualify for a moped, but not too many drivers find this to be a great situation, especially when it rains or when they have longer distances to travel.

A person will be declared an habitual offender if that person is convicted of three major offenses within a 3-year period or receives 10 minor infractions within a 3-year period. Like reckless driving, these offenses are reviewed using their arrest dates, not conviction dates. The offenses that are considered “major infractions” for purposes of habitual offender laws are:  (1) offenses resulting in someone’s death; (2) driving under the influence (DUI); (3) driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC); (4) reckless driving; (5) driving under suspension (DUS); (6) motor vehicle law felonies; and (7) leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or injury. Two convictions from the same arrest are only counted as one. For example, if a person has a previous reckless driving conviction and a separate conviction for DUS arising from a different incident and is arrested again for DUI, then a plea to reckless driving will result in the driver being declared an habitual offender.

A Charleston DUI Lawyer Needs to Know All Driving Laws

It is important to have a Charleston DUI lawyer who knows not just about DUI defense but who is knowledgeable about ALL driving laws. There are too many traps, like the ones described in this article, where a client can get in trouble. Also, if a driver ever receives a notice of suspension or habitual offender status from the DMV, that person should immediately contact an attorney. Sometimes, things can be challenged, but the ability to make some of these challenges gets lost after a certain amount of time goes by, and that amount of time is only a few days in some scenarios.

This FREE book for drivers has practical information on South Carolina’s laws and effective defense strategies including the laws of DUI & DUAC, the legal procedures, implied consent hearings, field sobriety tests, the DMT DataMaster breath test machine, the penalties & costs for a DUI, how to be an effective witness, and much more.

Charleston DUI Attorneys

If you are charged with DUI in Charleston, contact the attorneys at Futeral & Nelson.

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