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Can/will a public defender work to get same plea deal for my son?

York, SC |

First offense - blew . 18 , ( has metal bonded retainers - was a question asked by attorney - seemed relevant to him ) but the private attorney consult indicated he could plead to DUAC , pay a $ 1000 fine and enter a treatment program . Once completed , if he stays clear for 3 years , the charge can be expunged from his record . Is this true ? Will the PD ask for / get the same reduced charge . He was also charged with failure to yield and unlawful start of a vehicle . The private attorney said these could be dropped . Of course , he costs 4K where the PD is free which leaves more money for the fines / programs .

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Attorney answers 6


Although I do not practice in your jurisdiction, I can attest that public defenders are usually very competent and very good. What exact deal they will be able to work out, I'm not sure anyone can say, but I would be confident with a public defender if I were in your situation. Either way, you certainly need an attorney and I always tell people to go with the attorney who is the best and who they feel most comfortable with. You can always get a public defender first and then, if not satisfied, hire a private attorney later.


It all depends on the individual attorney, whether privately retained or court-appointed. Most public defenders are very good lawyers and get good results for their clients. That said, there may be defenses many lawyer, privately retained or public defenders, may not recognize.

Often people think that because it isn’t a murder case, a drunk driving case is simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. These cases can be among the most complex a criminal defense lawyer handles. The government is willing to spend an incredible amount of money to convict you though. They will have expert witnesses available for consultation and trial.

That you have been charged or that some contraption says your alcohol level was at a certain level does not mean that you are guilty. It certainly does not mean that you can be proven guilty using competent, valid evidence.

Field sobriety “tests” are designed to give police a reason to arrest. You cannot “pass” them. The police will admit that almost a third of healthy young adults who take these tests without any alcohol will be judged to be “under the influence” – and that assumes they are properly administered!

After even a first drunk driving conviction, you may face employment discrimination. You will certainly be charged higher for insurance. Having such a conviction will also make you a target for drunk driving arrest in future interactions with police. You will automatically become a suspect.

You will want a lawyer who is familiar with field sobriety “tests,” perhaps one who is certified to administer these tests. You will want a lawyer familiar with the weaknesses of the contraptions that are used to report alcohol or drug levels. You want an experienced trial lawyer, used to cross-examining police officers. Police officers are practiced, experienced witnesses.

That is, you want an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer, whether you call the offense DUI, OWI, DWI, OUI, or drugged driving.

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There are a number of ways these charges could play out so it is impossible to say that a plea to a DUAC is best in this situation or not. In SC, police have a number of procedures that must be followed to support the charge and if they fail to follow certain steps it can result in your case getting dismissed. Whether you go the PD or private attorney route, it's important to have an attorney that understands DUI defense and explore all those options for you to get the best possible result.


DUAC is not a reduced charge, and it has the same consequences as a DUI. Neither DUI nor DUAC can be expunged after three years. Although most magistrate court offenses can be expunged after three years, this does not apply to driving offenses.

If this is a DUI 1st offense, your son needs to request a jury trial before his initial court date, and he needs to request an administrative hearing within 30 days.

If you can afford to retain a private attorney you should, but I would not retain an attorney who is telling you in your initial consultation that they intend to plead your son's case or who gives the advice you stated in your question. If you need a list of competent DUI attorneys in York County, feel free to call my office.


When I was a public defender in Richland County, I was almost always offered a DUAC "deal" for those charged with DUI 1st offense. On really bad cases DUAC is slightly better than a DUI if the cop will rewrite the ticket.

I have only handled one DUI up your way and that was in Rock Hill City Court. That jurisdiction gives a lot of discretion to the cops. I have found that in jurisdictions where the arresting officer controls the outcome of the case, hiring a private attorney who primarily does DUIs is can be the difference between a DUAC and a reckless driving deal. I would call other experienced DUI lawyers and consult with them. But remember when comparing private criminal defense attorneys you often get what you pay for; So I would be wary about hiring a DUI attorney that charges less than $3K.


Public Defenders are just as qualified to practice law as any other attorney. However, a private attorney has the freedom to make choices about which cases to take. Thus, the private attorney can focus a lot of their energy on one particular case, whereas the PD only has so many resources available to help them deal with cases. A public defender does not get to choose whether he or she has a caseload of 50 or 250. A private attorney on the other hand gets to select how many cases he or she can handle at one time, thereby allowing them to set aside extra time to prepare for a case that might be more complicated than others.

Please be advised that this comment should in no way be interpreted as legal advice, nor should one rely on this comment in making a final decision about his or her case. Each case is fact specific and peculiar in its own way. Thus, you should consult with an attorney in-person or over the phone, explaining your particular situation, so that the attorney can render fully effective and competent assistance tailored to your particular situation.