Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm

Traffic Laws Overview

Understanding South Carolina’s traffic laws is crucial for both residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re facing a speeding ticket, a reckless driving charge, or need assistance with a DUI case, Thompson and Hiller are here to provide legal representation. Our experienced team is skilled in navigating South Carolina’s complex traffic laws, working diligently to protect your driving privileges and minimize the impact on your record. With a deep understanding of local regulations and a commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes, we’re your trusted partners in resolving traffic-related legal matters. Explore our services today to learn how we can assist you in facing your traffic law challenges.

Initial Consultation

Attorney meets with the client to discuss the details of the case

Investigation & Evidence Gathering

Collecting all relevant evidence, talking to witnesses, and reviewing police reports and other documents

Pre-Trial & Negotiations

Defense can negotiate with the prosecution for plea deals or even get some charges dropped

Trial & Beyond

Defense attorney represents the client in court, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and making closing arguments

Court House

Traffic Laws 

Stay compliant and protect your driving record with the trusted guidance of Thompson & Hiller, your go-to legal team for traffic laws in Columbia, South Carolina.

South Carolina Traffic Laws

When it comes to navigating the roadways in South Carolina, understanding the local traffic laws is crucial not just for your safety but also for maintaining a clean driving record. At Thompson & Hiller, we specialize in helping our clients tackle a myriad of issues related to traffic laws in Columbia, South Carolina. This comprehensive guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of the types of traffic laws in the state, offering you a reliable resource for when you’re in need of competent legal advice.

Definition of Traffic Laws

Traffic laws are rules and regulations designed to govern behavior on roadways, ensuring the safe and orderly flow of traffic. These laws are a mix of federal guidelines and state-specific rules, tailored to accommodate the unique characteristics of each state’s roadways and population. In South Carolina, these laws are enforced by various agencies, including local police, state troopers, and county sheriff’s offices.

Types of Traffic Laws in South Carolina

Moving Violations

  • Speeding: One of the most common moving violations, speeding can result in hefty fines and points on your driving record.
  • Reckless Driving: Defined as driving with a willful disregard for safety, reckless driving is a serious offense in South Carolina.
  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence): Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense that carries harsh penalties, including jail time.

Non-Moving Violations

  • Parking Tickets: Generally issued for parking in a restricted area or overstaying a meter.
  • Expired Registration: Driving with outdated vehicle registration is a non-moving violation that can result in a fine.

Miscellaneous Offenses

  • Seat Belt Violations: South Carolina law requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts.
  • Texting While Driving: Considered a distraction, texting while operating a vehicle is prohibited.

Examples and Penalties

  • Speeding: Penalties can range from $15 to $200 depending on the speed.
  • Reckless Driving: A first offense can lead to a fine of $25 to $200 and imprisonment for up to 30 days.
  • DUI: Penalties can include a fine of up to $10,000, license suspension, and imprisonment, depending on the number of offenses and your blood alcohol level.

Traffic Law Penalties

Moving Violations


Moving violations in South Carolina encompass a wide range of offenses committed while your vehicle is in motion. This includes speeding, which is often determined by radar or laser technology, and reckless driving, which involves operating a vehicle with a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Another serious moving violation is DUI (Driving Under the Influence), which involves driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.


Penalties for moving violations can be quite severe. Speeding can result in fines ranging from $15 to $200, depending on how much over the speed limit you were driving. Reckless driving can lead to a fine between $25 and $200, or imprisonment for up to 30 days for a first offense. DUI penalties are especially harsh: they can include a fine of up to $10,000, license suspension, and even imprisonment. The penalties escalate with each subsequent offense and can also be affected by your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest.

Non-Moving Violations


Non-moving violations in South Carolina are infractions that occur when the vehicle is not in motion. This category includes parking tickets, which are usually issued for parking in a restricted zone or for overstaying a meter. Another example is driving with an expired registration, which is illegal and can result in a citation.


The penalties for non-moving violations are generally less severe than for moving violations but can still result in fines and points on your driving record. Parking tickets can range from a minor fine to more significant charges if the violation occurs in a critically restricted area. Fines for expired registration can also vary but usually entail a financial penalty that increases the longer the registration remains expired.

Miscellaneous Offenses


South Carolina has several miscellaneous traffic offenses that drivers should be aware of. For instance, seat belt laws require both drivers and passengers to be buckled up at all times when the vehicle is in operation. Texting while driving is another offense categorized under miscellaneous laws, and it is considered a form of distracted driving.


Failure to wear a seat belt can result in a fine, although it is considered a secondary offense, meaning you cannot be pulled over solely for this violation. Penalties for texting while driving can include fines and the accumulation of points on your driving record, which can lead to higher insurance premiums and, in extreme cases, the suspension of your driver’s license.

If you find yourself facing any of these traffic violations, consulting with experienced attorneys like Thompson & Hiller can help you understand your legal options and navigate the complexities of South Carolina traffic laws.

Legal Process for Handling a Traffic Law Violation

Initial Citation or Arrest

The legal process for a traffic law violation typically starts when you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer and issued a citation or, in more serious cases like DUI, arrested. This citation or arrest record will contain the details of the violation and instructions for your next steps, such as paying a fine or appearing in court.

Pre-Court Preparation

At this point, you may choose to consult an attorney for legal advice. If you decide to hire Thompson & Hiller, we will begin by thoroughly reviewing the details of your case, gathering evidence, and planning a strategy for your defense. This may include requesting police reports, eyewitness testimonies, and other pertinent documents.

Court Appearance and Plea

Your citation will specify a date by which you must either pay the fine or appear in court. If you contest the violation, a court date will be set. During this appearance, you will enter a plea: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Thompson & Hiller will guide you through the complexities of this process, helping you make an informed decision about your plea.

Discovery and Pre-Trial Motions

If you plead not guilty, both sides will enter the discovery phase, where evidence is shared and examined. Your attorneys at Thompson & Hiller may file pre-trial motions to dismiss the case or suppress evidence, depending on the circumstances.


If your case goes to trial, Thompson & Hiller will represent you, presenting evidence and arguments in your defense. This could involve questioning the arresting officer, presenting counter-evidence, or calling upon expert witnesses. The judge or jury will then decide on your guilt or innocence.


If found guilty, you will move to the sentencing phase. Sentences for traffic law violations can range from fines and points on your driving record to, in more severe cases, imprisonment. Thompson & Hiller will advocate for the most favorable outcome, possibly negotiating reduced penalties or alternative sentencing options like traffic school.


If you are dissatisfied with the outcome, Thompson & Hiller can help you file an appeal, which involves reviewing the trial’s proceedings for legal errors that may have affected the outcome.

Post-Trial Actions

Even after the legal process is completed, there may be additional consequences, such as increased insurance rates or a suspended driver’s license. Thompson & Hiller can guide you through post-trial actions, such as expunging your record or reinstating your license.

When you choose Thompson & Hiller to handle your traffic law violation case, you gain a partner committed to guiding you through every step of the legal process. Our primary goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for you, from the pre-court preparation to post-trial actions. Contact us today for a comprehensive consultation tailored to your specific situation.

Preparing for Your Initial Consultation with Thompson & Hiller 

When facing traffic law violations, it’s crucial to be well-prepared for your initial consultation with your lawyers. Below are some questions you might consider asking Thompson & Hiller, as well as a list of what to bring to your first meeting.

Questions to Ask

General Questions

  1. What is your experience with traffic law violations similar to mine?
  2. What are the potential outcomes I could face based on my specific violation?
  3. What is your recommended course of action for my case?

Legal Strategy and Process

  1. Will you personally handle my case or will it be delegated to another attorney?
  2. What are the likely steps involved in resolving my case?
  3. Do you recommend taking my case to trial or negotiating a plea deal?

Costs and Fees

  1. What is your fee structure? Is it a flat fee or an hourly rate?
  2. Are there any additional costs that I should be aware of (e.g., court fees, expert witness fees)?
  3. What is your retainer fee and how is it applied?

Communication and Follow-up

  1. How frequently will we communicate about my case?
  2. What is the best way to reach you for urgent matters?
  3. Will I receive updates even when there are no major developments in my case?

What to Bring for the Initial Consultation

Legal Documents

  • Citation or Arrest Record: Bring the original or a copy of the citation or arrest record you received from the law enforcement officer.
  • Court Notices: If you have received any notices to appear in court, bring them with you.
  • Bail Papers: If applicable, bring any bail papers or documentation.


  • Photographs: If you have any photos that can serve as evidence, bring them along.
  • Witness Statements: If you have written statements from witnesses, make sure to bring copies.

Financial Information

  • Insurance Information: Your auto insurance information may be relevant, especially if your traffic violation involves an accident.

Personal Identification

  • Driver’s License: Always have a valid form of identification.
  • Vehicle Registration: This could be relevant depending on the nature of your traffic violation.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What are the penalties for speeding in South Carolina?

The penalties for speeding in South Carolina can vary depending on how much over the speed limit you were driving. Fines can range from $15 to $200, and you may also receive points on your driving record. For a detailed understanding of the penalties you may face, consult the experienced attorneys at Thompson & Hiller, who specialize in South Carolina traffic laws.

2. What does a DUI charge entail in South Carolina?

A DUI charge in South Carolina is a serious offense that can result in hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time. The penalties can escalate with each subsequent offense and are also affected by your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. Secure your best defense against DUI charges by seeking the tailored legal advice of Thompson & Hiller, your trusted DUI attorneys in Columbia, SC.

3. How can I fight a traffic ticket in South Carolina?

To fight a traffic ticket in South Carolina, you’ll need to plead “not guilty” and go through the legal process, which may involve a court appearance. A well-prepared defense can make all the difference, and that’s where Thompson & Hiller come in. Our skilled lawyers can guide you through each step, from gathering evidence to representing you in court, ensuring the best possible outcome.

4. What is considered reckless driving in South Carolina?

Reckless driving in South Carolina is defined as operating a vehicle with a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Penalties can include fines between $25 and $200, or imprisonment for up to 30 days for a first offense. For legal guidance on dealing with reckless driving charges, turn to Thompson & Hiller, the Columbia, SC attorneys with a track record of success.

5. Can I get points removed from my South Carolina driving record?

Yes, you can get points removed from your South Carolina driving record by taking a defensive driving course, but there are limitations on how often this can be done. Additionally, points naturally expire over time. For a comprehensive understanding of how to improve your driving record, consult with Thompson & Hiller, the Columbia, SC lawyers who excel in resolving traffic law issues.

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