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You’ve probably heard the term “legal limit” before, especially if you’ve faced a DUI and DUAC case.

But what does the phrase mean exactly? And how much alcohol can you consume and still legally drive in South Carolina?

Before we answer these questions, please know that if you’re facing DUI or DUAC charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even a .01 percent difference in your blood alcohol content (BAC) can mean the difference between a dropped charge and a conviction.

Our legal team at Kent Collins Law Firm created this guide to help you understand the key legal terms you’ll encounter during a DUI or DUAC case.

Additionally, if you have specific questions that we don’t address here, please reach out to our office to talk to a lawyer.

What does “legal limit” even mean?

Let’s start with what it isn’t.

The legal limit of alcohol does not refer to the number of drinks you’ve had in a short amount of time. South Carolina does not outlaw a certain number of drinks; in fact, the law doesn’t actually use the phrase “legal limit” at all.

When law enforcement uses the term legal limit, they are referring to your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). BAC refers to how much alcohol is present in your bloodstream at the time law enforcement officers pull you over.

What is my legal limit?

The reason legal limit cannot possibly refer to a specific number of drinks that you can legally consume is because many factors influence your BAC including gender, weight, hormone levels, and body-fat percentage.

Below is a rough guideline as to what your legal limit may be, keep in mind that your own body chemistry may cause you to metabolize alcohol differently.

BAC for Women

Body Weight

(in lbs)

100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
Number of drinks Approximate blood alcohol content (by percentage)
1 .05 .04 .03 .03 .03 .02 .02 .02
Beyond this point, your driving skills are likely affected, and you may face criminal penalties
2 .09 .08 .07 .06 .05 .05 .04 .04
3 .14 .11 .10 .09 .08 .07 .06 .06
4 .18 .15 .13 .11 .10 .09 .08 .08
5 .23 .19 .16 .14 .13 .11 .10 .09
6 .27 .23 .19 .17 .15 .14 .12 .11
7 .32 .27 .23 .20 .18 .16 .14 .13
8 .36 .30 .26 .23 .20 .18 .17 .15
9 .41 .34 .29 .26 .23 .20 .19 .17
10 .45 .38 .32 .28 .25 .23 .21 .19

BAC for Men

Body Weight (in lbs) 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
Number of drinks Approximate blood alcohol content (by percentage)
1 .04 .03 .03 .02 .02 .02 .02 .02
Beyond this point, your driving skills are likely affected, and you may face criminal penalties.
2 .08 .06 .05 .05 .04 .04 .03 .03
3 .11 .09 .08 .07 .06 .06 .05 .05
4 .15 .12 .11 .09 .08 .08 .07 .06
5 .19 .16 .13 .12 .11 .09 .09 .08
6 .23 .19 .16 .14 .13 .11 .10 .09
7 .26 .22 .19 .16 .15 .13 .12 .11
8 .30 .25 .21 .19 .17 .15 .14 .13
9 .34 .28 .24 .21 .19 .17 .15 .14
10 .38 .31 .27 .23 .21 .19 .17 .16

The charges and penalties you are determined by state law. Let’s get into that next.

South Carolina DUI Law & The Legal Limit

In South Carolina, DUI and DUAC laws each have different specifications as to your BAC level and how it impacts your potential punishment.

DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” which can mean the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUAC stands for “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration.” Both offenses can result in serious punishments if you’re convicted.

Let’s look at them both more deeply.

DUI Law

South Carolina’s DUI law states that it’s illegal to drive a car while one’s blood alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more.

If you are pulled over by a police officer who suspects you are under the influence, here’s what you can expect:

If your BAC is less than .05

With a BAC less than .05 percent, the law mandates that a conclusive presumption is created that you were not under the influence of alcohol.

A conclusive presumption is an assumption that the prosecutor or judge accepts as true, and you are not allowed to argue against it.

If your BAC is greater than .05, but less than .08

With a BAC level between .05 and .08 percent, the prosecutor can introduce your BAC level as evidence to help determine your guilt or innocence. The law prohibits anyone from automatically making an inference that you were under the influence of alcohol.

If your BAC is greater than .08

With a BAC higher than .08 percent, the law permits an automatic inference that you were under the influence of alcohol. In this case, the prosecutor or judge may automatically assume that you are guilty of a DUI.

DUAC Law

In South Carolina, the DUAC law states that regardless of whether your ability to drive is impaired or not, driving a vehicle with a BAC level of .08 percent or more is illegal. The prosecutor does not have to prove that your driving was impaired, just that your alcohol level was that high.

Therefore, in order for you to be charged with a DUAC infraction:

  1. Your Breathalyzer (or blood) test must be completed within two hours of your arrest
  2. Law enforcement had probable cause to pull you over for a traffic stop

Place your DUI/DUAC case under the influence of an attorney.

Kent Collins Law is here for you. We’ve helped many clients facing DUI or DUAC charges, so we understand what you’re up against.

Take this important first step. Email us, or call 803-808-0905 to schedule a free in person consultation.

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