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You are out at the bar one night or on the lake spending time with friends. You have enjoyed a few drinks and had a great time.

Now it is time to head home, and you thought about taking a cab; but feel sober enough to drive home. It isn’t that far to drive. You will be fine. You could be taking a major risk.

It is NOT illegal to drink alcohol THEN drive a vehicle. However, it becomes ILLEGAL when your faculties are impaired by the alcohol you have consumed.

The trouble is most people do not think they have had too much to drink. They do not know when their ability is impaired making it unsafe to drive a vehicle crossing that line to being illegal.

The other problem: people metabolize alcohol at different rates resulting in no magic number of drinks that you may be able to consume without possibly becoming impaired.

If you or someone you know have been charged with a DUI in South Carolina, you surely have questions about what happens next.

Below you will find some of the most common questions that a DUI lawyer gets asked about DUI charges in South Carolina.

1. What are DUI charges?

In South Carolina, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other drugs is illegal. If you are pulled over, the penalties for a DUI charge depend on how many DUI’s you have had in the past.

A first offense usually has less severe legal consequences than a fourth offense, for example. When you are charged with a DUI, the state of South Carolina looks back at your record for the past 10 years to see if you have had prior DUI charges.

Even if your previous DUI was in another state, it may count against you as a prior offense if you were convicted within the last 10 years.

Another factor is the alcohol concentration in your system at the time you are pulled over and given a Breathalyzer test. South Carolina uses the Datamaster DMT to obtain your Blood alcohol content (BAC) through a breath sample as evidence of impairment. The higher your blood alcohol level, the larger your potential fines and license suspension can be if convicted. A higher BAC level can also result in a longer jail sentence if convicted.

The fines and jail terms are outlined in the table, broken down by offense and alcohol concentration.

OFFENSEAlcohol ConcentrationFineJail Time
1stLess than .10%$40048 hours – 30 days
Between .10% to .16%$50072 hours – 30 days
.16% or more$1,00030 – 90 days
2ndLess than .10%$2,100 to 5,1005 days – 1 year
Between .10% to .16%$2,500 to 5,50030 days – 2 years
.16% or more$3,500 to 6,50090 days – 3 years
3rdLess than .10%$3,800 to 6,30060 days – 3 years
Between .10% to .16%$5,000 to 7,50090 days – 4 years
.16%or more$7,500 to 10,0006 months – 5 years
4th & subsequent offensesLess than .10%N/A1 year – 5 years
Between .10% to .16%N/A2 years – 6 years
.16%or moreN/A3 years – 7 years


2. Is DUI different from DUAC?

Yes, a DUI charge is different from a DUAC charge. In South Carolina, DUAC, “driving with unlawful alcohol concentration”, is a traffic violation for operating a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more.

The penalties for DUAC charges are similar to the penalties for DUI cases. The legal consequences for a DUAC charge increase depending on prior offenses and the level of alcohol concentration, as outlined in the below table.

OFFENSEAlcohol ConcentrationFineJail Time
1stLess than .10%$40048 hours – 30 days
Between .10% to .16%$50072 hours – 30 days
.16% or more$1,00030 – 90 days
2ndLess than .10%$2,100 to 5,1005 days – 1 year
Between .10% to .16%$2,500 to 5,50030 days – 2 years
.16% or more$3,500 to 6,50090 days – 3 years
3rdLess than .10%$3,800 to 6,30060 days – 3 years
Between .10% to .16%$5,000 to 7,50090 days – 4 years
.16%or more$7,500 to 10,0006 months – 5 years
4th & subsequent offensesLess than .10%N/A1 year – 5 years
Between .10% to .16%N/A2 years – 6 years
.16%or moreN/A3 years – 7 years


3. Is a DUI charge a misdemeanor or a felony?

Whether a DUI charge is treated as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the nature of the charge. In most DUI cases, a first or second offense would be a misdemeanor. A third or fourth offense is usually a felony if there are actual convictions for prior DUI offenses.

However, if you are accused of being intoxicated and cause a car accident that leads to property damage or cause injury or death to another person you may be charged with Felony DUI. Typically, a DUI that results in “great bodily injury” to another person is considered a felony offense, even if it is a first-time offense. For more information about felony DUI charges, click here.

4. Will my license get suspended if I get convicted of DUI?

Yes, your driver’s license may be suspended even for a first offense DUI or DUAC. In some situations, your driver’s license may be suspended even before a conviction. In these instances you may be able to apply for a temporary alcohol-restricted license (TARL). This will allow you to drive on a temporary basis until an administrative hearing is held to determine the outcome of your license suspension.

If you are convicted of a DUI or DUAC, the Department of Motor Vehicles may issue you a provisional license if you meet certain criteria, including:

  • Possess a valid SC driver’s license
  • Acquire no other suspensions following the DUI or DUAC
  • Enroll in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program
  • Pay a $100 fee to the DMV
  • Obtain “SR-22” Insurance
  • Your current or a new insurance company must file a “Form SR-22” with the DMV

5. My license was taken at the time of the arrest. How can I get my license back?

You may request an administrative hearing for a $200 fee. After the hearing, you may apply for a temporary license for $100.

6. Do DUIs only involve alcohol?

No. Alcohol is the most common substance that leads to DUI charges, but other substances may also be involved in DUIs. These other substances include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Inhalants
  • Narcotics
  • Other intoxicating substances
  • Doctor Prescribed Medications

7. Can DUI’s be transferred from state to state?

Most states will honor each other’s justice systems concerning DUI charges. Regardless of where you were charged with a DUI, most states will recognize that charge as if it happened within their own state. Information about DUI charges is usually transferred between states via the Driver’s License Compact.

This means that if your driver’s license is suspended or revoked in one state, you may not be able to get a license in another state. If you are able to get a license, your car insurance premiums may still be affected by violations that occurred in another state.

8. How can I fight DUI charges?

You are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or a guilty plea. Within 30 day of a DUI arrest, you may request an administrative hearing to challenge the driver’s license suspension for a breath test refusal or a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of 0.16 or greater. This administrative hearing is a separate matter from the DUI criminal charge.

For the actual DUI case, you must fight the charges in the particular court and jurisdiction where the criminal case is filed. There are a couple of scenarios in which you could beat a DUI charge.

If you refused to take a Breathalyzer test, your privilege to drive is South Carolina is automatically suspended. However, you may be able to fight this suspension by requesting an administrative hearing within 30 days of the arrest. At an administrative hearing you may challenge the refusal, as well as the probable cause for your stop, and if the arresting officer followed proper procedures in administering your breath test.

On the other hand, if you did take a Breathalyzer test and failed, you may still be able to fight your DUI charge. Sometimes the police make mistakes, or the Breathalyzer could be faulty. Issues like that may mean the difference between a conviction and a dismissed or reduced charge.

9. What happens if you “refused to blow” (submit to the breathalyzer)?

“Refusing to blow” will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license. If you’ve never been charged with a DUI, the suspension is six months. If you have prior DUI convictions, that automatic suspension increases by three months for every DUI conviction. For example, someone with three prior convictions who refuses the breathalyzer test will have an automatic suspension of 15 months.

10. Can you beat a DUI charge?

You can beat a DUI charge – you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The State must prove that you were driving while your ability to operate a vehicle was impaired. In some instances, it is difficult for the police to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence. Sometimes the arresting officer makes mistakes. These mistakes may include insufficient probable cause for your stop, mistakes in administering Field Sobriety Tests, mistakes in the breath test procedure, and many more issues. Also, the “breathalyzer” in not always accurate, and it is only evidence of impairment, not the final decision maker on a DUI case. BAC levels may be measured inaccurately or affected by other sources creating a false positive. With the help of a DUI lawyer, you can get through your case with the best possible outcome.

11. Can DUI charges be dropped?

It is certainly possible for DUI charges to be dropped. In order for that to happen, you’ll need an advocate on your side. A lawyer will present evidence in your favor and challenge the State’s evidence to try to have a DUI charge dropped.

DUI charges may be dropped for several reasons, such as:

  • An equipment malfunction that put you above the legal .08 blood alcohol level
  • You were stopped for discriminatory reasons
  • Your arrest deviated from lawful standards
  • You had an unfair trial

In each of these examples, your best option is to hire a DUI lawyer to help clear your name.

12. Can DUI charges be reduced?

Yes. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to have your charges reduced in exchange for a guilty plea. Instead of a DUI charge, you could be charged with a lesser traffic infraction such as reckless driving, speeding, or tailgating. In some cases this allows for the DUI and the arrest to be expunged.

13. Will a pending DUI charge show up on a background check?

Yes, charges do show up on background checks. Keep in mind that charges are different from convictions. The person viewing your background check should recognize that.

14. Are DUI convictions public record?

Yes. There is a public index of cases available online, so anyone can look up convictions. Even pending DUI cases, without a conviction, are public records. A DUI conviction will also show up on your criminal background check as well as on your driving record. Even after your driver’s license is reinstated, DUI, DUAC, and implied consent violations stay on your driving record for 10 years.

15. Can a DUI affect my professional license?

Yes. Most professional licenses are dependent on clean criminal records. So in addition to jail time and loss of driving privileges, a DUI conviction may affect your professional license. Exactly how your professional license will be affected depends on what type of license it is, but probationary periods or suspensions are not uncommon.

16. Can a DUI charge affect employment?

Yes, it most certainly can. DUI charges and convictions may result in the loss of your driver’s license, which affects your ability to drive to work. That may be problematic unless you are able to take public transit or carpool with a friend or colleague.

If your job requires you to drive a company vehicle, a DUI could prevent you from being able to fulfill your job requirements. That can cause quite a problem.

17. If I’m convicted of a DUI, can I get a license to drive to work?

You may be able to apply for a provisional license if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have or have had a driver’s license.
  • You have no other suspensions except the administrative suspension associated with your BAC or refusing to blow.
  • You are enrolled in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Program.
  • You have a certificate of SR-22 insurance on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • You pay the $100 fee for the provisional license.

18. Can a DUI charge be expunged?

DUI convictions cannot be expunged. However, you may be able to have your charges expunged if you were found not guilty at trial or an attorney is able to negotiate a deal that allows for the dismissal of the DUI charge.

19. What does a DUI typically cost?

The cost of representation for a DUI depends on a number of factors. Each case is different, with its own set of challenges.

At Kent Collins Law Firm, after a free legal consultation, we will quote a fee for representation. The legal cost for a DUI case is almost always a flat fee. That fee includes complete representation on the DUI and related charges, representation on related administrative issues, and assistance with expungement for dismissed charges in South Carolina.

Getting help with your DUI

If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, contact us by submitting this form for your free consultation. Our experienced legal team will fight for your rights and help you navigate the justice system during this trying time. Call a DUI attorney now at 803-808-0905.

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