DUI charges in SC can happen to anyone.
Politicians, police officers, lawyers, doctors, school teachers, you name it – the list goes on.
In fact, some police officers will arrest a person for DUI just because they detect the odor of alcohol – regardless of how the person performs on the field sobriety tests.
Whatever the case, chances are you are reading this because either you or someone you know has been charged with DUI in SC and you need to educate yourself on South Carolina DUI Law.
In this article we’re going to cover:
- The elements of a DUI charge in SC,
- The difference between DUI and DUAC,
- The degrees of charges, including DUI 1st, DUI 2nd, DUI 3rd, and DUI 4th,
- Drivers License suspensions resulting from SC’s implied consent laws, and
- The potential penalties and fines you are looking at if you are convicted of DUI in SC.
Driving Under the Influence Charges in SC: DUI & DUAC
It is not against the law to drink and drive in SC.
Despite the advertising campaigns by state agencies and advocacy groups, the billboards, and the televisions commercials you have seen, it is not against the law to drink and then drive.
Buzzed driving is not drunk driving, and SC does not have a “zero tolerance” law except as applied to minors (persons under twenty-one (21) years old).
So, what is DUI, and how does the state prove DUI charges against a person?
How Does the State Prove DUI Charges in SC?
SC Code § 56-5-2930 says that it “is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol, [drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs] to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”
There are three elements that the state must prove if they want to convict a person of driving under the influence in SC:
- The person was actually driving (not sitting in the car listening to the radio and not passed out behind the wheel while the car is not moving or in gear),
- While driving, the person was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, and
- The person was under the influence “to the extent that person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”
As stated, it is not against the law to drink and then drive in SC. However, It is illegal to drink to the extent that your faculties or ability to drive are materially and appreciably impaired – that could be one drink, or it could be four or five drinks, depending on the person’s physical characteristics and metabolism and the type of drinks consumed.
Although a breathalyzer result greater than .08 may be evidence that a person was intoxicated to the extent that their faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired, a person’s breathalyzer results could be .10 or .15 and the person could still be not guilty of DUI if the state does not prove material and appreciable impairment.
How Does the State Prove DUAC Charges in SC?
Driving under an unlawful alcohol concentration is different, however.
If a person is charged with DUAC under SC Code § 56-5-2933, the state only needs to prove that 1) the person was driving and 2) their blood alcohol content (BAC) was .08 or more.
The state must have a breath, urine, or blood alcohol test that is admissible in court to prove DUAC – if there are no test results or if the test results are suppressed at trial, there cannot be a conviction for DUAC.
Also, even when there is an alcohol test result, the defendant can introduce evidence to show that the test results were wrong including:
- Independent test results,
- Errors or flaws in the machine or testing process,
- The officer’s failure to follow SLED policy and procedures,
- Expert testimony as to the operation (and flaws) of the Datamaster machine or other testing processes, and
- Sobriety witnesses who can testify that the defendant was not intoxicated or did not appear intoxicated.
SC Implied Consent Laws
Your license may be suspended after a DUI arrest if you refused the breathalyzer or if you took the breathalyzer and the result was .15 or greater.
You must then request an administrative hearing to ask a DMV hearing officer to “rescind the suspension” and restore your license – a proceeding that is separate from the DUI charges. If you do not request an implied consent hearing your license will remain suspended.
If you win the implied consent hearing, your license can still be suspended again if you are convicted of the DUI – you must fight both 1) the administrative license suspension and 2) the DUI charges in separate courts.
DUI Penalties and Fines in South Carolina
The potential penalties for a DUI conviction in SC can be severe and long-lasting and could include:
- Prison time,
- Community service hours,
- License suspension,
- License revocation as a habitual traffic offender,
- Ignition interlock device (IID) requirements,
- ADSAP requirements,
- SR-22 insurance requirements,
- Job loss and difficulty finding employment, and
- A drunk driving conviction that can never be expunged.
DUI Offenses: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and Subsequent Offenses
The potential fines, jail time, license suspension period, and ignition interlock device (IDD) requirements are graduated – they increase based on the number of prior DUI convictions within the past ten years and the BAC result. Just one prior offense dramatically changes the penalties!
DUI First (1st) Offense
The potential penalties for a 1st Offense DUI depend on your Blood Alcohol Level (BAC). There are three categories of BAC levels used in determining the penalties for a conviction.
A 1st Offense DUI with a BAC of < .10% brings a fine of up to $400, 48 hours to 30 days in jail, no Ignition Interlock requirement, and a 6 month license suspension.
A 1st Offense DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% brings a fine up to $500, 72 hours to 30 days in jail, no Ignition Interlock requirement, and a 6 month license suspension.
A 1st Offense DUI with a BAC of >.15% brings a fine up to $1,000, 30 to 90 days in jail, required Ignition Interlock Device, and a 6 month license suspension.
DUI Second (2nd) Offense
A SC DUI 2nd Offense with a BAC level of less than .10% brings a $2,100-$5,100 fine, 5 days to 1 year in jail, a mandatory Ignition Interlock Device requirement, and a 2 year license suspension.
A 2nd Offense DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% brings $2,500-$5,500 in fines, 30 days to 2 years in jail, a required Ignition Interlock Device, and a 2 year license suspension.
A 2nd Offense DUI with a BAC of >.15% brings $3,500-$6,500 in fines, 90 days to 3 years in jail, a required IID, and a 2 year license suspension.
DUI Third (3rd) Offense
A SC 3rd Offense DUI with a BAC of < .10% brings a $3,800-$6,300 fine, 60 days to 3 years in jail, a required IID, and a 3 year license suspension.
A 3rd Offense DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% brings $5,000-$7,500 in fines, 90 days to 4 years in jail, a required IID, and a 3 year license suspension.
A 3rd Offense DUI with a BAC of >.15% brings $7,500-$10,000 in fines, 6 months to 5 years in jail, a required IID, and a 3-4 year license suspension.
DUI Fourth (4th) Offense
It is very important to note that Fourth Offense DUI’s in South Carolina are charged as felonies. All other “regular” DUI charges (DUI 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) are charged as misdemeanors.
A SC DUI Fourth Offense with a BAC of < .10% brings 1-5 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
A 4th Offense DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% brings 2-6 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
A 4th Offense DUI with a BAC of >.15% brings 3-7 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
If you are intoxicated while driving and your negligence causes death or great bodily injury to a person, you could be charged with felony DUI in SC.
SC Code Section 56-5-2945 says that felony DUI is when a person 1) drives a motor vehicle, 2) while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, 3) “does any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle,” and 4) that “act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury or death to another person.”
The potential penalties for a felony DUI include:
- When great bodily injury results – a fine of not less than $5100 and not more than $10,100 and 30 days to 15 years in prison, and
- When death results – a fine of not less than $10,100 and not more than $25,100 and one year to 25 years in prison.
Table of Penalties, Suspensions and Requirements
|Charge||BAC Level||Potential fine (the actual amounts are much higher because the court will add court costs and assessments)||Potential Jail Time||Mandatory IID||License Suspension|
|DUI 1st Offense||< .10||Up to $400||48 hours to 30 days in jail||None||6 months|
|DUI 1st Offense||.10-.15||Up to $500||72 hours to 30 days in jail||None||6 months|
|DUI 1st Offense||>.15||Up to $1,000||30 days to 90 days in jail||6 months||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 2nd Offense||<.10||$2,100-$5,100||5 days to one year in jail||2 years||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 2nd Offense||.10-.15||$2,500-$5,500||30 days to two years in prison||2 years||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 2nd Offense||>.15||$3,500-$6,500||90 days to three years in prison||2 years||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 3rd Offense||<.10||$3,800-$6,300||60 days to three years in prison||3 years||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 3rd Offense||.10-.15||$5,000-$7,500||90 days to four years in prison||3 years||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 3rd Offense||>.15||$7,500-$10,000||Six months to five years in prison||3 years (4 if there is a previous conviction within the past five years)||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 4th or Subsequent Offense||<.10||One to five years in prison||Life||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 4th or Subsequent Offense||.10-.15||Two to six years in prison||Life||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
|DUI 4th or Subsequent Offense||>.15||Three to seven years in prison||Life||Ignition Interlock Device Program|
Questions About DUI Charges in SC?
If you have been charged with DUI in Charleston, SC, get an experienced DUI defense lawyer on your side immediately who can answer your questions, begin preparing your defense, and ensure you do not miss important deadlines.
Call Kulp & Elliott now at 843-761-3840 or send us an email through our website to set up a free consultation to find out how we can help.