Are 10,000 Pending DUI Cases in South Carolina Too Many?

South Carolina's Chief Justice Orders Courts to Reduce Backlog

Increased driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement in South Carolina, combined with limited court resources, has led to a large amount of pending DUI cases for the state. According to the South Carolina Judicial Department, there are over 10,000 outstanding DUI cases statewide, the longest going back 10 years. The backlog led law enforcement officials to report frustration to Chief Justice Joan Toal for the amount of time the officers are currently spending in court.

In response, Toal ordered 132 state courts to reduce their backlog in four months. The orders charge the courts with eliminating all DUI non-jury cases over 60 days and jury cases over 120 days.

In some cases, there simply aren't enough prosecutors to go to every court hearing. For simple DUI cases, this means that officers are sometimes presenting their case alone against an experienced criminal defense attorney.

It is unclear how much of the backlog prosecutors and courts can reduce. According to an assistant solicitor for the state, DUI cases take at least a half-day to prosecute, and can sometimes stretch to a full day. Currently officials are considering various options, such as trying cases on weeknights and weekends, or even trying more than one case at a time.

There exists a real concern that in the interest of disposing of cases quickly the courts may be tempted to cut corners and potentially impact fair trials. Under these circumstances it is more important than ever that an accused person seek the advice and assistance of an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney.

South Carolina DUI Penalties

While the state DUI caseload is enormous, DUI cases are still being prosecuted. According to the South Carolina Department of Safety, officers arrested approximately 30,000 drivers last year in South Carolina for DUI, and almost 1.5 million people are arrested nationally each year.

A DUI conviction carries strict penalties. In South Carolina even on a first-time DUI can bring jail time and license suspension. Depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC), you could face a fine of up to $1000 and 90 days in jail. Any second and subsequent DUIs within a 10-year timeframe bring increases in fines, jail time and license suspension.

If you have been charged with a DUI, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney may be able to reduce fines and jail time, and help you avoid losing your ability to drive to work.