It took seven years, but the DUI case against Myrtle Beach businessman Mike Hilton has finally been put to bed.
Back in 2008, Hilton was originally charged with felony DUI resulting in death and felony DUI resulting in serious injury following an accident that involved Hilton and the two passengers on a motorcycle that he struck while he was driving while under influence of alcohol.
After a great deal of back and forth, Hilton has finally entered a guilty plea to the reduced charges of first offense DUI and assault and battery, third degree. These charges made it possible for Circuit Court judge Benjamin Culbertson to sentence Hilton to serve 30 days or pay $400 on the DUI charge and 30 days or $500 on the assault and battery charge, a significantly less severe punishment than Hilton would have faced had the charges not been reduced. Just the felony DUI death charge carries a 25-year prison sentence.
In addition to serving time and paying a court fine, Hilton has to pay the victims $265,000. This amount must be paid in fully by July 24th or else the court will strike the plea deal and Hilton will once again be charged with the felony DUI count, something he wishes to avoid.
An ignition interlock device will also be installed on his vehicle and will stay in place for 6 months. The ignition interlock device is designed in such a way that the vehicle will not start until the Hilton inhales into the device which is designed to determine whether or not he has an alcohol in his system. If he does, the engine won’t start.
The accident that started the case took place on May 10, 2008 when Hilton was traveling on Wildwood Trail. It was on this road that he struck a motorcycle carrying two passengers. The bike’s driver was killed as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident. Since the accident, the second person on the bike has gone through 12 different surgeries in an attempt to repair their leg which was severely injured in the accident.
More than two hours after the accident took place, Hilton’s blood alcohol level was .15, twice the legal limit in South Carolina.
One of the reasons that the case took so long to resolve was the breathalyzer test. In the months following the accede, South Carolina’s legislatures passed a law stating that the breathalyzer test had to be taken within two hours of the accident in order to be admissible in court. This led to a lengthy debate about whether or not the prosecution could use Hilton’s test in the case. As a result, the case was bounced around in the Court of Appeals and South Carolina Supreme Court, and was eventually settled in a plea deal.
“This is terribly tragic event and cased like these are the reason I became a personal injury lawyer. To protect families who have been victimized by others and to make sure the accident doesn’t lead to insurmountable financial setbacks,” said Joseph Sandefur, managing partner of a top personal injury firm, joeandmartin.com/myrtle-beach with an office headquartered in Myrtle Beach.