DUI in South Carolina: Penalties for Drunk Driving

Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the life-changing occurrences in a person’s life. A DUI conviction can affect your personal and professional relationships, reduce career opportunities, and delay licenses. An experienced Clemson DUI defense lawyer will guide you through the legal procedure, preserve your rights, and give you a court advantage.

DUI charges can happen to anyone, regardless of social or financial status. Depending on the circumstances, a DUI conviction in South Carolina can result in significant penalties, the loss of driving privileges, and potentially jail time and probation. This article focuses on the various DUI laws and penalties.

South Carolina DUI Laws

Driving a car after drinking or using drugs in South Carolina can result in harsh penalties under the driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC) or DUI statute. In addition, South Carolina law provides blood alcohol level limits, testing procedures, and punishments for driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

Driving Under the Influence

Under South Carolina law, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent that one’s ability to operate a car is significantly affected. A driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher can be charged with a DUI regardless of whether or not they are impaired.

You are legally impaired if you have a BAC of at least 0.04% as a commercial vehicle driver. For a DUI charge to hold, there must be evidence of impairment.

Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration

Again, driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 % or above is prohibited in South Carolina. However, unlike a DUI, no evidence of “impairment” is required for a conviction under the “per se” DUAC Act.

Implied Consent

South Carolina law considers drivers to have provided their permission for breath, blood, or urine testing to detect the presence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse BAC testing, your license will be suspended for six months. A 9-month suspension may be imposed if you have had a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension within the last ten years.

Zero Tolerance

South Carolina law prohibits anyone under 21 from operating a vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.02%. This is known as the “zero tolerance” law.

A person under 21 who drives with a BAC above 0.02% faces an automatic suspension of their license for three or six months if there’s a prior alcohol-related conviction or recess in the preceding five years.

Suppose a person under 21 refuses to consent to BAC testing. In that case, their license will be automatically suspended for six months or one year if there’s a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension in the preceding five years.

DUI law book, concept of Clemson DUI defense lawyer

Clemson DUI Defense Lawyer Discusses Penalties for DUI in South Carolina

The penalties for any DUI or DUAC charge depend on the offender’s blood alcohol content and the number of previous convictions. Every sentence carries a mandatory license suspension, fines, and jail time.

First Offence

As a first time offender, you will serve one of the following penalties based on your blood alcohol concentration:

  • BAC less than 0.10%: $400 fine or 2-30 days in jail, with a 6-month license suspension
  • BAC 0.10% – 0.16%: $500 fine or 3-30 days in prison, with a 6-month license suspension
  • BAC greater than 0.16%: $1000 fine, a 30 to 90 days jail, with a 6-month license suspension

Second Offense

A second offender faces a misdemeanor charge. If your BAC is less than .10%, you will pay a fine between $2,100 and $6,500. So it could be close to $11,000 after the surcharges and assessments.

You will also face a jail term between five days and one year and have your license suspended for a year. Also, the law mandates you install an ignition interlock device for two years.

A blood alcohol level between 0.10% and 0.16% comes with a penalty of $2500 to $5500 fine, 30 days to two years in jail, and a 1-year license suspension. For a BAC  greater than 0.16%, the punishment is a $3500 to $6500 fine and 90 days to three years in jail with a 1-year license suspension.

Third Offence

Third-time offenders can expect fines of between $3,800 and $6,300, or more than $13,000 after the additional charges for a BAC less than .10%. In addition, there’s imprisonment of between 60 days and three years and an ignition interlock device installation for three years.

The other punishments are:

  • BAC 0.10% – 0.16%: a fine of $5000 to $7500 and 90 days to 4 years jail with ain  2-y, ear la license suspension
  • BAC greater than 0.16%: a fine of $7500 to $10,000, 6 months to 5 years in jail, and a 2-year license suspension

However, the DUI penalties may be more significant if the third offense is within three to five years of the driver’s first offense.

Fourth Offense

Subsequent offenses attract a permanent driving license suspension and higher prison time. Below is a breakdown.

  • BAC less than 0.10%: 1-5 years of imprisonment
  • BAC 0.10% – 0.16%: 2-6 years of imprisonment
  • BAC greater than 0.16%: 3-7 years of imprisonment

To determine whether an offense is second, third, or fourth, the lookback or washout period is ten years. For example, if you’ve been convicted of two previous DUIs in the last ten years, the charge you’re facing now is considered a third offense. The law doesn’t count any other convection outside the ten years under review.

Note that the terms DUI and DUAC are used interchangeably for sentences. Your current driving under the influence penalty is regarded as a second offense if you have one previous DUAC conviction and no DUI conviction in the last ten years. Within the lookback period, the courts will consider similar out-of-state convictions.

Let an Experienced Clemson DUI Defense Lawyer Help You!

As stated earlier, a DUAC or DUI punishment is severe. Depending on the circumstances of your case, significant fines, lengthy prison sentences, and license suspension or revocation may be imposed. So, it is best to try to prevent a conviction.

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with DUAC/DUI, contact a criminal defense attorney in Clemson, South Carolina. The Bateman Law Firm has experienced attorneys committed to ensuring that you get the best possible outcome in your case. The attorney will use all available legal defenses to get you off the charge or secure a reduced sentence. Contact us today for a free case review.

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