Suppose you are stopped for speeding—just a few miles-per-hour over the limit—while driving home from happy hour. The officer leans into your window and asks if you have been drinking.

You don’t feel impaired but your mind starts to race as you wonder if you are over the legal alcohol limit. You start to question whether you should have held off on that second drink.

In this example, if the officer proceeds along to arresting you for DUI your mind continues to reel with questions about what lies ahead for you, your family, your employment, and your freedom.

We have put together a list of common questions about DUI convictions in South Carolina. Keep reading if you are wondering exactly how a conviction could affect your life.

1. What is a DUI conviction?

A DUI conviction means you were found guilty, or pleaded guilty of driving under the influence. Under South Carolina law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or both drugs and alcohol.

2. Is a DUI a criminal conviction?

Yes, a DUI is a criminal conviction if you are found guilty or plead guilty.

Interestingly, a DUI can be a two part offense in South Carolina:

  • There is a criminal path involving a criminal court.
  • And if a person who has been arrested for DUI refuses to provide a breath sample or does provide a sample that the DMT Datamaster machine reports out as being 0.15 hundredths of one percent or more, the person will face an administrative path with the administrative hearings division of the SC DMV.

3. Is a DUI a felony or misdemeanor?

A DUI could be either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on a few factors:

  1. Whether or not the offense was your first or a repeat offense
  2. Whether or not your impaired driving caused injuries or death to others

The state will review your record for the past 10 years to search for prior offenses—this is commonly referred to as a look-back period. Here’s how South Carolina classifies DUI charges:

Misdemeanor DUI

  • First offense
  • Second offense
  • Third offense

Felony DUI

  • Fourth offense
  • Caused significant bodily injury to another person
  • Caused another person’s death

4. What are the possible penalties for a DUI conviction?

There are many different penalties for a DUI/FDUI (Felony DUI) conviction, such as having to:

  • Enroll in ADSAP, which stands for Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program
  • Install an Ignition Interlock Device on your car
  • Pay fines ranging from $400 up to $6,300 plus court costs that can double a fine
  • Serve jail time ranging from 48 hours up to 25 years
  • Do public service, such as court-ordered community service
  • Carry SR-22 or “assigned risk” insurance for a period of three years

5. How long is your license suspended for a DUI conviction?

The length of time your license can be suspended depends on who orders the suspension. There are two ways your license can be suspended for a DUI conviction—either through the DMV or as a result of a criminal conviction. See the charts below for specific details.

License suspension through DMV (Administrative Suspensions)

Prior offenses in past 10 years BAC of .15% or higher Refusal to submit to breathalyzer
0 1 month 6 months
1 2 months 9 months
2 3 months 12 months
3 4 months 15 months


NOTE:The law can be confusing when it doesn’t have to be. This creates potential defenses that are not “loopholes,” but are legislative or state agency failures. This area is one of them.

A person under arrest for DUI, before being asked to blow into a machine, must be provided “implied consent rights” in writing. Part of the stock rendition of these rights include warnings about the administrative consequences of refusing to provide a sample or of producing a reading of .15 of 1 percent or more.

The idea is that it is only right and fair to allow a person to make the decision to provide a breath sample or not upon provision to him of her of the consequences of that decision.

The table above illustrates that the period of administrative or DMV-imposed suspension can vary based upon prior offenses if any.

Well, here is the rub and thus my point.

When, at the breath testing site, the officer provides these “implied consent rights” to a person he has arrested, those rights make no mention that

License suspension through criminal court

Charge Length of suspension
First offense 6 months
Second offense 1 year
Third offense 2 years
Third offense within 5 years of the first offense 4 years
Fourth or subsequent offense Permanent revocation


6. Are DUI convictions public record?

Yes, DUI convictions are public record just like other criminal convictions.

7. Does a DUI conviction affect employment?

A DUI conviction may affect your work, especially if your job requires you to drive. If you drive a commercial vehicle on a CDL (commercial driver’s license), then you may face harsher penalties for a DUI than someone with a regular driver’s license would.

Furthermore, you will not be able to drive any vehicle while your driver’s license is suspended—not even a work vehicle. Additionally, if you are required to use an Ignition Interlock Device, you will have to install one in your work vehicle as well.

8. Does a DUI show up on a background check?

Yes, a DUI arrest and conviction will appear on your background check just as any other criminal offense would. As a result, your current and future employers will find out about your DUI.

9. How long do points for a DUI conviction remain on my driver’s record?

In South Carolina, DUI convictions do not fall under the points system, because license suspensions are dictated by law. In other words, points are not added to your license for DUI convictions.

10. Do DUI convictions transfer from state to state?

DUI convictions could transfer between states. Many states provide DUI conviction records to each other through shared databases to honor license suspensions from other states.

Therefore, even if this is your first DUI offense in South Carolina, you may be charged as a repeat offender if you have prior DUI convictions in other states.

11. Can a DUI conviction be expunged?

No, currently South Carolina law does not allow for expungement of DUI convictions. Therefore, it is very important to speak with an experienced attorney if you are charged with a DUI.

12. Can a DUI get you deported?

A DUI could lead to deportation. Generally, deportation is a consequence for individuals convicted of violent crimes, such as aggravated assault.

However, many local authorities are beginning to take DUI convictions more seriously. Whether you are a legal resident alien or you are in the country illegally, local law enforcement and the solicitor’s office may push for you to be deported if you are convicted of a DUI.

13. Can a DUI affect my citizenship application?

Yes, a DUI conviction could affect your citizenship application; however, a DUI is not on the list of crimes that automatically prohibit a person from becoming a citizen.

Having said that, note that your citizenship examiner could use the DUI as evidence that you do not have “good moral character,” which could hurt your chances of becoming a citizen. If you are worried about a DUI affecting your citizenship, you should consider talking to an immigration lawyer about your case.

14. How can I avoid a DUI conviction?

If you are facing DUI charges, the best course of action is to hire an experienced attorney to fight for your rights.

In many DUI cases, you cannot avoid a conviction, but a criminal defense lawyer can help you negotiate a more favorable plea deal. After all, the police and the solicitor’s office make mistakes sometimes, so a DUI charge does not always result in a conviction.

With the help of an experienced defense attorney, you can build a strong defense against your DUI charge.

Do not face your DUI charge alone. Get help.

Dealing with criminal charges is emotionally and mentally overwhelming. Remember that you do not have to face this alone. Get help from someone who knows the criminal justice system inside and out.

Timothy Kulp is one of only six Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers in South Carolina. He understands what you are up against, and he will fight to protect your rights.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. Call 843-853-3310 today, or fill out our online form.

Ready to Speak with an Attorney?

Contact Timothy Kulp to discuss your situation.
Get in Touch