When Do Car Accidents Get Criminal Charges in South Carolina?

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Motor vehicle violations in South Carolina can result in misdemeanor charges. Some may be punished with a fine, while others could result in jail time.

Criminal charges for a car accident against a driver could impact your civil case for financial compensation, so it’s important to talk to a lawyer about your options after an accident where a driver was charged.

The Seriousness of the Charges Depends on the Circumstances

Depending on the seriousness of the charge, a motor vehicle offense could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. Whether a driver is criminally charged after an accident depends on what happened and what the officer who shows up at the scene finds. Law enforcement could launch an investigation into the accident that could show what happened, and it could result in a later charge.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

In South Carolina, one has a legal obligation to report any accident in which there is over $1,000 of property damages to law enforcement. If there is any damage to either of the cars, you should assume that it would be over $1,000. If one does not report the accident to the authorities, it may be treated as a hit-and-run and could result in jail time or the loss of a license.

However, leaving the scene of an accident (even if it is treated as a felony when there is great bodily injury) would not impact who was liable for the crash in the first place.

Driving Under the Influence

A traffic accident could also mean criminal charges if one was driving under the influence. In South Carolina, the legal blood alcohol content is .08. Drivers below that point could be considered impaired. Everything depends on the facts and circumstances.

The type of criminal charges in a DUI accident depends on both the blood alcohol content and the extent of the injuries caused. In a DUI accident with great bodily injury or death, the impaired driver would be charged with a felony and could receive a jail sentence between 30 days and 15 years. Drivers can receive up to 25 years if someone died in a DUI accident.

Even a misdemeanor DUI can lead to potential jail time. A first offense can lead to a jail sentence of up to 30 days, while a second offense could be punished with up to a year in prison. Regardless, a driver who is convicted of DUI will receive a mandatory license suspension.

Reckless Driving Charges

In South Carolina, recklessness is defined as knowingly acting negligently. One does not even need to violate a traffic law in order to be reckless, but they commonly do. Reckless driving could be speeding, tailgating, or weaving in and out of lanes.

A reckless driving conviction will lead to much higher insurance premiums and at least six points on a license. A conviction could also lead to a jail sentence of up to 30 days. Like drunk driving, there is also a possibility that one could be charged with felony reckless driving if someone suffered great bodily injury in the crash.

The South Carolina Legislature is considering legislation to raise penalties for reckless driving offenses, including lengthening potential jail sentences.

Driving with a Suspended License

Driving with a suspended or revoked license in South Carolina is one of the most common motor vehicle crimes. The first offense could lead to a prison term of up to 30 days, and the second offense carries a potential sentence of up to 60 days.

The Effect of Criminal Charges on a Civil Case

If a driver is adjudicated guilty of a criminal charge associated with a car accident, it may be relevant to your civil claim against that driver. Under a doctrine known as negligence per se, if a person violates a safety law and causes the kind of harm that the law exists to prevent, they may be negligent as a matter of law. For example, if a drunk driver hit you, the mere fact that they were drunk will likely be sufficient to establish liability.

While the criminal case against a driver could help your civil case, it could not hurt it. Even if the driver is not convicted of the criminal charges, you could still potentially receive financial compensation for your injuries.

The standard of proof in a criminal case is much higher than it is in a civil case. It is possible that the prosecution could not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but you could still prove their legal responsibility by a preponderance of the evidence.

You should hire an attorney to seek financial compensation regardless of whether the police charge a driver or not.

Contact a Charleston Attorney for Car Accident Cases Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney can help you fight for the financial compensation that you deserve when you can prove that someone else was at fault. Trey helps by guiding you through the legal process to secure the compensation you need. You can send us a message online or call us at (843) 636-8739. We offer free consultations to prospective clients.

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