In the United States, there is a federal law that dictates how old you must be to purchase or drink alcohol. The National Minimum Drinking Age law was passed back in 1984 and is set at 21 years old. While the states can set their own DUI laws, they can’t change the legal drinking age. This means that most states, including South Carolina, have special laws when it comes to underage drinkers who decide to get behind the wheel.
Some say that the laws in South Carolina aren’t strict enough for underage drinkers. While the law does set a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for minors, the penalties are a lot less severe than you may think. The legal limit for DUI in South Carolina is .08. This means that if your breathalyzer test reveals a BAC of .08 or higher, you will be arrested for DUI.
For certain types of drivers – such as commercial drivers – the BAC limit is much lower. It’s only .04 for people caught drinking and driving while in a commercial vehicle. There are also special laws for people with a BAC of .15 or higher. However, when it comes to underage drinkers, the BAC limit is only .02. The average person will blow a .02 after just a single beer or drink. That’s why the legislature set the limit so low. If someone under 21 decides to drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel, they risk the chances of being arrested for DUI in South Carolina.
And, while the penalties may not be as severe for underage DUI offenders in South Carolina as in other states, it’s still serious business. If you or your teen are arrested and charged with DUI or underage DUI, you should call an experienced Greenville DUI defense lawyer right away.
What’s the Difference Between a DUI and an Underage DUI in South Carolina?
If someone under the age of 21 is pulled over for DUI, the police officer will have a couple of options. They can charge you with a standard DUI. This is likely what will happen if your BAC is closer to .08 or over .08. If this is the case, your case will be treated like any other criminal DUI offense. You’ll be facing fines, possible jail time and an automatic license suspension. However, if the officer decides to arrest you for underage DUI, the penalties are different. In fact, the way your case will be treated is entirely different from a garden variety DUI.
If you’re charged with an underage DUI, your case won’t be handled in criminal court at all. It will be handled by the Greenville Department of Motor Vehicles. In fact, it won’t even count as a criminal conviction. The other good thing about an underage DUI is that you won’t face any fines or jail time. However, there are other penalties. For example, your license will be suspended for at least three (3) months. If it’s your second offense, it’ll be suspended for at least six (6) months. Keep in mind – if you refuse the breathalyzer test, these suspension lengths will be doubled. And, your license will be suspended immediately upon arrest. You will not have the benefit of waiting to see if you’re found guilty or not.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney in Greenville, South Carolina
If your teenage son or daughter is arrested for DUI, you’re going to need help. The last thing you want to do is see your child’s future handicapped at such a young age. While an underage DUI offense is not technically a criminal offense in South Carolina, it’ll still impact your life. Not only will it involve a host of penalties, it also counts as a DUI for progressive penalty purposes. In other words, an underage DUI counts as your first offense. If you’re caught drinking and driving again within a few years, it’ll count as your second offense. This will result in much stiffer fines, penalties and possible jail time.
That’s why it’s so important that you call and talk to one of our DUI defense law firm in Greenville, South Carolina. They’ll review your case and see if they can poke holes in the prosecutor’s case. They’ll also be able to talk to the prosecutor and see if they can get your charges dismissed or reduced. Call and schedule your initial consultation right away. There won’t be a whole lot of time between your teen’s arrest and first appearance in court or the Department of Motor Vehicles.