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Cole Law Firm’s Newest Publications

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Cole DUI Consumer Guide

This is a copy of one of Cole Law Firm’s newest publications. It’s a sort of “consumer guide” for those who have been charged with DUI or who know someone who has been charged with DUI. Free copies are available to anyone who stops by our office at 1303 Ella Street, Anderson, SC.

Cole Crime eBook

Another “consumer guide” from Cole Law Firm. This gives an overview of what one can expect if charged with a criminal offense in South Carolina. As always, if you need more information, your initial consultation is free.


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Free Consultations

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Many lawyers and law firms advertise free consultations. We do too. The difference with us is…..

At the Cole Law Firm, we never EVER charge for a second or even third consultation. We want you to feel at ease, and we want you to understand what issues are facing you and your case.

Contact Cole Law Firm TODAY to schedule your first FREE CONSULTATION.

Remember: Friends Don’t Let Innocent Friends Plead Guilty


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What You Need to Ask a DUI Lawyer

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– How long has he/she been practicing and handling DUI’s?
– What percentage of his/her practice is DUI defense?
– Not how many DUI’s has he/she represented but how may has he/she tried?
– Is he/she trained by the NHTSA course of Field Sobriety Testing (FST)?
– Does he/she own a DataMaster machine?  (The machine used by law enforcement in South Carolina to measure alcohol in one’s breath.)
– Is he/she trained on the DataMaster?
– How many books has he/she published on the subject?
– How many articles has he/she published on the subject?
– How many seminars has he/she taught on the subject?
– How many people has he/she taught in their career?
– How much time will he/she put into your case?
– What is his/her Martindale Hubbell rating? AVVO – what do his/her clients say about their representation?
– Does he/she have any law enforcement experience?
– Is he/she a founding member of the National College for DUI Defense?
– Is he/she routinely interviewed by elements of the news media for opinions on DUI legislation and laws?
– And last, but not least, did he/she help write the law?

Click to download a copy of “What You Need to Ask a DUI Lawyer.”

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Ronnie Cole on Emma’s Law

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EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 1, 2014!

Ronnie Cole has helped write the DUI Laws, including Emma’s Law. It goes into effect October 1, 2014, and radically changes South Carolina’s DUI Laws.

Ronnie Cole knows the laws and can represent you for your traffic or DUI court case


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ronnie cole

S.C. Bar Announces Publication of South Carolina Drug Case Tool Kit, 2nd Ed.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (July 16, 2013)

The South Carolina Bar Continuing Legal Education Division is pleased to announce the publication of the “South Carolina Drug Case Tool Kit, Second Edition” by attorneys Ronnie M. Cole, John D. Newkirk and Michael O. Hallman.

The book is designed as a “go to” guide for both prosecution and defense counsel in handling drug cases of all kinds in South Carolina. The comprehensive manual covers 18 separate aspects of drug trials, including drug analysis, search and seizure, drug indicators and places of concealment, forensic evidence, drugs and hotels, statutory drug offense enhancements, sample direct and cross examinations, and jury charges.

Ronnie Cole, founder of the Cole Law Firm with offices in Anderson and Greenville, is the lead author of 14 books and editions published by the South Carolina Bar. He has also spoken at and planned more than 25 seminars sponsored by the South Carolina Bar on topics such as DUI, drugs, accident reconstruction and traffic cases in South Carolina, in addition to numerous seminars in other states. He has helped write legislation in South Carolina and is considered one of the foremost legal authorities on traffic law in America today.

Current South Carolina Bar books written by Mr. Cole include “Handling Traffic Cases in South Carolina, Fifth Edition,” the “South Carolina Traffic Lawyer’s Toolkit, Second Edition,” and “The South Carolina Collision Investigation Tool Kit, First Edition.” He is currently working on a manual for attorneys that will analyze federal and state commercial drivers’ license issues and regulations.

The South Carolina Bar, which has a membership of more than 14,500 lawyers, is dedicated to advancing justice, professionalism and understanding of the law.


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Cole Law on YouTube

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We have added our website videos to YouTube for easier viewing. You can even subscribe to get updates as we do new videos! See what Cole Law Firm is about and how we can help you with your legal dilemma.

Cole Law YouTube Channel


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Collateral Damage of DUI/DUAC Arrest or Conviction

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Many people understand if one is convicted of a DUI/DUAC there are certain automatic consequences.  They are (1) the sentence imposed by the court; (2) the reinstatement fee; (3) the increased insurance premium; and (4) ADSAP.  Over the years there has been another escalating punishment we call the “societal penalty”.

Simply put, over an extended period of time society and/or governments have, for whatever reasons, felt traditional punishment in these cases was not enough.  Thirty years ago none of the following factors warranted discussion as a result of a DUI arrest or conviction.

Let’s examine what’s happening today outside the legal setting when one is arrested and/or convicted of a DUI/DUAC.

  1. One would be shocked to learn while applying for life insurance or individual health insurance, almost all insurance agents will tell you, a DUI/DUAC arrest and/or conviction is a controlling factor in issuing those policies.  The following is an example of an actual portion of an insurance application used in the industry today:“The following questions apply only to Proposed Insureds who are age 16 or     older    (If “Yes”, provide complete details in the Remarks Section on Page 6.)In the past 5 years, have you: a. been charged with DUI/DWI, had 2 or more moving violations, had an accident, or had your driver’s license suspended or revoked?”  yes/no
  2. Believe it or not, travelling to another country even with a valid U.S. passport is beginning to be impeded by a DUI/DUAC arrest and/or conviction.  Imagine a honeymoon couple or a family flying or cruising to their destination only to have a family member denied entry into the country.  The honeymoon or vacation has been completely destroyed.Even this past year our firm has checked with many embassies to see if our clients could enter a country with a DUI/DUAC arrest or conviction.  Some of the countries we have contacted include Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.  Each country’s regulations may differ from outright exclusion of entry to Australia’s policy of assigning a case worker who determines on a case by case basis if one may enter the country. We now advise all clients, while the court approves them leaving the U.S. after a DUI/DUAC arrest, to check with the embassy in the country they plan to visit to see what impediments they may encounter travelling abroad. We do this in every case we become aware of a client planning travel because all regulations are constantly subject to change.
  3. Employment is a major factor in a DUI/DUAC arrest and/or conviction.  Years ago this was not a factor but today it is an overriding one and where in the past we never had to deal with an employer or Human Resource Department it is commonplace today.

The following are actual examples of employment nightmares:

  • An orthopedic surgeon is arrested and upon the local hospital learning it, his hospital privileges are revoked prohibiting him from performing surgery or seeing patients in the hospital.
  • Airline pilots are suspended, terminated or demoted pending the outcome of their cases.  These cases often require contacts with the FAA, and the Airline and Pilots Union.
  • A school teacher is arrested and knows if she is convicted she cannot teach again.
  • A nursing student at CU is arrested and cannot take the nursing boards while her DUI charge is pending and another R.N. loses her certification after her DUI conviction.
  • A security exchange licensee’s employer has a policy if the defendant is convicted of DUI his license is revoked (this man made an enormous amount of money every year).
  • A defendant is a coach, is offered a Division I head-coaching job. When he tells the Athletic Director he has a DUI pending, he loses the job.      Shortest tenure of an NCAA Coach in history!
  • We are seeing employers ordering mandatory treatment ranging from an evaluation and recommendation by Behavioral Health Services to intensive in/out patient treatment.

These have been just a few examples of the societal/governmental impact of a DUI/DUAC arrest or conviction.  It appears, based on the recent past, these additional “punishments” will continue to escalate.


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Sleep Driving (or, Your Worst Nightmare)

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Approximately 15-20 years ago people started reporting bizarre behavior taking place after ingesting certain legally prescribed medications. Most notably were side effects such as loss of memory, hallucinations and conduct such as driving and cooking meals without remembering.
Imagine waking up in a jail cell with no memory of how you got there at all.  You have no idea what you did from your last memory to how you wound up in jail, much less what transpired in between.  Various prosecutions, some high profile cases, started arising as a result of the phenomenon we now know as “sleep driving.”
To understand this condition let’s look at how various drugs can react with the human body.  First, we know antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria, are very beneficial and save countless lives each year.  We also know that they do not affect each individual the same way.  The documented allergic reactions on individuals range from mild, including nausea and sensitivity to sun light, to severe, causing shortness of breath and even death.  Differing reactions to these particular drugs are not disputed by the medical, scientific, and legal communities. Decongestants and antihistamines, used to treat the common cold, can cause one individual to feel “drowsy” and have impaired coordination, and make another feel “wired,” lightheaded and nervous.  The same is true for prescribed pain killers.
The first instances of “sleep driving” and the commission of crimes were dismissed by prosecuting authorities as a lie, hoax, red herring or simply a method to avoid being prosecuted and convicted of a particular crime.  Now it is generally, if not universally, accepted that the side effects of these legally prescribed drugs are real.  To further show that the side effects are not just manufactured to avoid prosecution consider the following cases relayed to us by people who have not been charged with a crime.

  1. A husband and wife are prescribed the same medication on the same day.  On the third morning after taking the prescribed dose they awoke under their kitchen table naked with a plate full of peanut butter sandwiches with no memory of the night’s events.
  2. A woman drives from South Carolina to Danielsville, Georgia.  She wakes up on a traffic circle, downtown, with no memory of driving there. Further, she had no friends or family in that city.
  3. A woman takes her dose of a new medication one evening before bed.  When she awakes she sees a large empty pizza box on the kitchen table and confronts her sleeping husband about ordering it.  After further investigation, it was found that she ordered, paid for, and consumed the entire pizza herself.  She has absolutely no memory of the event.
  4. A man is prescribed Ambien® and takes it at approximately 9:00 p.m. and sits in his recliner to watch television to allow the medication to take effect.  A short time later his wife walks through and he asks her who put up the “picket fence” in front of the television and when she was going to get all of her “zoo animals” out of the house.

And the list goes on!  According to the website www.webMD.com, the manufacturer of Ambien® now acknowledges one of the side effects is none less than “sleep driving.” Additionally, a catch all provision has been included stating that there is no complete list of possible side effects and encouraging individuals to contact their doctor or pharmacist if they experience other effects not listed.
So what is the defense for a defendant in a criminal case in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Supreme Court has been faced with the issue of the defense of involuntary intoxication, inState v. Pittman, 373 S.C. 527, 647 S.E.2d 144 (2007).  There the defendant was convicted of the double homicide of his grandparents; the defense asserted that the murders occurred while the defendant was under the influence of Zoloft®, an antidepressant, and argued for a jury charge on involuntary intoxication resembling that of the Model Penal Code.  The trial court declined to adopt the Model Penal Code and charged the jury with the M’Naughten Test and further charged the jury to find the “defendant not guilty if they found involuntary intoxication.” Id at 577.  On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the proper test in criminal cases where mental capacity issues are implicated is the M’Naughten Test.  Under that test, a defendant is found to be legally insane if, at the time of the offense, he lacked the capacity to distinguish moral or legal right from wrong.  Further, the Court declined to adopt the Model Penal Code standard, and held that “the fact that other courts apply a different standard for the defense of involuntary intoxication is not dispositive.”  Id at 577.
While Pittman is the current and correct law in South Carolina, it is important to note that holding specifically applies to Zoloft® and by extension, all antidepressants, not sleep aids or other lawfully prescribed medication. Further, at trial, the defense was allowed to present extensive expert testimony and limited anecdotal evidence about the side effects of Zoloft®, in an effort to bolster their defense.
Other states have directly settled the issue of involuntary intoxication: consider §16-3-4, Intoxication, Georgia Code of Laws Annotated:

  • A person shall not be guilty of a crime when, at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime, the person, because of involuntary intoxication, did not have sufficient mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong in relation to such act.
  • Involuntary intoxication means intoxication caused by:
  • Consumption of a substance through excusable ignorance; or
  • The coercion, fraud, artifice, or contrivance of another person.
  • Voluntary intoxication shall not be an excuse for any criminal act or omission.

Also see, § 39-11-503, Intoxication, Tennessee Code of Laws Annotated, for a similar statute addressing the defense of involuntary intoxication.
For those traffic cases in which the defense of involuntary intoxication is applicable, a well crafted jury charge would be extremely beneficial in explaining to the jury this particular defense.  It is important to note the stark similarities between the M’Naughten test presented in Pittman and the Georgia statute cited above.  So, depending on the evidence presented at trial, one should prepare a jury charge that reflects both the holding in Pittman (M’Naughten coupled with the fact that the trial judge instructed the jury to find the defendant not guilty if they found involuntary intoxication), and the Georgia statute.  (There is nothing prohibiting a jury charge from other jurisdictions, though it is in the complete discretion of the court to so instruct.)  And, when arguing such, remember State v. Kimbrell, 294 S.C. 51, 362 S.E.2d 630 (S.C. 1987), held that a trial judge should not refuse a request to charge on a correct statement of the law on an issue raised by the indictment and the evidence presented at trial.  Also, Judge Ralph King Anderson Jr.’s request to charge on involuntary intoxication can be very helpful in the preparation of an appropriate jury charge.  See below, emphasis added.
§ 6-4  Involuntary Intoxication 1
There are two types of intoxication, voluntary and involuntary.  Involuntary intoxication may result from innocently consuming an intoxicant, through being tricked into it by another, or being forced to take it, or perhaps through unanticipated side effects of a prescription drug taken on orders of a physician.

If you find the defendant was given drugs or alcoholic beverages without his knowledge, and as a result, he lost his ability to exercise independent judgment and volition while committing the crimes alleged against him, then it would be your duty to find the defendant not guilty.

P.S. Watson & W.S. McAninch, Guide to South Carolina Criminal Law and Procedure
165-66 (3d ed. 1990); 21 Am. Jur. 2d Criminal Law §§ 108-09 (1998).

1. South Carolina Request to Charge-Criminal, By. Judge Ralph King Anderson, Jr., prepared for the SC BAR CLE


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Coercion in Field Sobriety & Breath Testing Cases in Light of Sponar & Shaw

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Lack of Bladder Voiding as Defense in DUI/DWI Cases

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