Not to mention, if you are convicted of a DUI, it cannot be expunged which means you’ll have a permanent record.
And while there may be ways to “beat” a DUI or at least get the charges reduced, it’s important to fully understand the consequences of a DUI conviction in SC and how it might impact your life.
In this article we’ll cover the fundamentals of DUI charges along with the consequences of a DUI conviction, including:
- DUI Charges in SC,
- DUAC Charges in SC,
- When a DUI is a felony in SC,
- DUI fines and penalties for a conviction, including jail time, and other consequences of a DUI conviction, and
- Prior convictions – determining whether a DUI charge is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th or subsequent offense.
- Ignition Interlock Device Requirements
Driving Under the Influence in SC
SC has several DUI-related offenses, but the most common DUI charges we see are 1) driving under the influence (DUI), 2) driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), and 3) felony DUI.
Driving under the Influence (DUI) and Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) Overview
DUI Conviction – Three Elements That Must Be Found
To get a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), the state must prove each of the following elements found in SC Code § 56-5-2930 beyond any reasonable doubt:
- You were driving a motor vehicle in this state.
It is not enough that you were sitting in the driver’s seat, even if the car was running and in gear. There must be some evidence that you were driving the vehicle, which could be the officer’s testimony, another witness’ testimony who saw you driving, or your statements admitting that you were driving.
- While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.
It doesn’t matter if you were taking drugs as prescribed or if you were taking over-the-counter medications, as long as you were materially and appreciably impaired.
- To the extent that your faculties to drive a motor vehicle were materially and appreciably impaired.
It doesn’t matter how much alcohol you drank – what matters is whether you were materially and appreciably impaired. You can have a breathalyzer result of .20, and, although it can be used as evidence to show your level of impairment, the breathalyzer result alone is not enough to convict you if there is other evidence proving that you were not materially and appreciably impaired.
Whatsmore, for every prior DUI conviction on your record, the penalties for a new conviction increase. Contact a South Carolina DUI attorney immediately, especially if this is your first offense for DUI, to avoid potentially stacking up a DUI record.
DUI Offenses in SC
DUI First (1st) Offense
Your Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) determines your potential penalties for all DUI offenses. There are three categories of BAC levels used in determining the penalties for a conviction.
A First Offense SC DUI with a BAC of < .10% = a fine of up to $400, 48 hours to 30 days in jail, no Ignition Interlock requirement, and 6 months of license suspension.
A First Offense SC DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% = a fine up to $500, 72 hours to 30 days in jail, no Ignition Interlock requirement, and 6 months of license suspension.
A First Offense SC DUI with a BAC of >.15% = a fine up to $1,000, 30 to 90 days in jail, required Ignition Interlock Device, and 6 months of license suspension.
DUI Second (2nd) Offense
A Second Offense SC DUI with a BAC level of less than .10% = a $2,100-$5,100 fine, 5 days to 1 year in jail, a mandatory Ignition Interlock Device requirement, and 2 years of license suspension.
A Second Offense SC DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% = $2,500-$5,500 in fines, 30 days to 2 years in jail, a required Ignition Interlock Device, and 2 years of license suspension.
A Second Offense SC DUI with a BAC of >.15% = $3,500-$6,500 in fines, 90 days to 3 years in jail, a required IID, and 2 years of license suspension.
DUI Third (3rd) Offense
A Third Offense SC DUI with a BAC of < .10% = a $3,800-$6,300 fine, 60 days to 3 years in jail, a required IID, and 3 years of license suspension.
A Third Offense SC DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% = $5,000-$7,500 in fines, 90 days to 4 years in jail, a required IID, and 3 years of license suspension.
A Third Offense SC DUI with a BAC of >.15% = $7,500-$10,000 in fines, 6 months to 5 years in jail, a required IID, and 3-4 years of license suspension.
DUI Fourth (4th) Offense and Subsequent Offenses
A Fourth Offense SC DUI Fourth Offense with a BAC of < .10% = 1-5 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
A Fourth Offense SC DUI with a BAC of .10-.15% = 2-6 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
A Fourth Offense SC DUI with a BAC of >.15% = 3-7 years in jail, a required IID, and a lifetime license suspension.
DUAC, or driving under an unlawful alcohol concentration, is different from DUI charges although the penalties, fines, and consequences for a conviction are the same.
SC Code § 56-5-2933 says that “[i]t is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while his alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more.” This means that:
- The state must have a blood alcohol test result to go to trial on a DUAC charge. Without a chemical analysis there is no way to prove someone’s alcohol concentration, and, if your attorney gets the blood alcohol results suppressed, the state will not be able to prove their case,
- The state might need to bring an expert witness for trial who can counter your expert’s testimony on the machine’s accuracy and (lack of) reliability, and
- If they have a blood alcohol result that is .08 or greater, the state does not need to prove that you were materially and appreciably impaired – the only proof required is evidence of a blood alcohol result of .08 or greater.
- Drive a motor vehicle,
- While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,
- While driving, “does any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle,” and
- That “act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury or death to another person.”
The penalties for felony DUI depend on the extent of the other person’s injuries:
- “a mandatory fine of not less than five thousand one hundred dollars nor more than ten thousand one hundred dollars and mandatory imprisonment for not less than thirty days nor more than fifteen years when great bodily injury results,” and
- “a mandatory fine of not less than ten thousand one hundred dollars nor more than twenty-five thousand one hundred dollars and mandatory imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than twenty-five years when death results.”
DUI Fines & Penalties for DUI Offenses in SC
The potential punishment for a DUI conviction gets harsher based on 1) a person’s breathalyzer result and 2) the number of prior DUI convictions that a person has.
How far back do they go when they are looking for prior DUI convictions?
For purposes of DUI penalties, SC has a ten-year “lookback period” – any prior convictions within the past ten years will count, and any convictions older than ten years will not count.
DUI Penalties and Consequences for a DUI Conviction in SC
There are many consequences to a DUI conviction, and the prosecutor, officer, or judge are not going to inform you about many of these before you enter a guilty plea. These could include:
- Jail or prison time,
- Substantial fines,
- Court costs,
- Probation costs,
- Restitution if there was an auto accident,
- Community service hours,
- Enrolling in and completing the ADSAP program,
- License suspension,
- License revocation as a habitual traffic offender (HTO),
- SR-22 insurance requirements for three years (or longer if the policy lapses at any point),
- Loss of employment and future employment opportunities,
- Ignition interlock device (IID) requirements, and
- A permanent record that identifies you as a drunk driver.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences for DUI in SC
The chart below shows the penalties (fines, license suspension, and IID requirements) for DUI convictions in SC based on the alcohol test results and the number of prior convictions.
Most DUI charges in SC have mandatory minimum sentences. At the lower levels, the court can suspend the jail sentence, but, for some DUI offenses, the court does not have that option – if you plead guilty to the charge, the court will have no choice but to send you to jail.
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.
|Charge of DUI or DUAC||BAC Level||Penalty
(does not include court costs and assessments)
|Mandatory IID||License Suspension|
|1st Offense||< .10%||Fine = $400
Jail = 48 hours to 30 days
|1st Offense||.10-.15%||Fine = $500
Jail = 72 hours to 30 days
|BAC .15% or more requires 6 successful months||Depends on BAC:
.10-.14% = 6 months
.15 % or more = indefinite suspension with IID
|1st Offense||>.15%||Fine = $1,000
Jail = 30 to 90 days
|6 successful months to get license back||Indefinite suspension|
|2nd Offense||<.10%||Fine = $2,100-$5,100
Jail = 5 days to 1 year
|2 years||Indefinite suspension|
|2nd Offense||.10-.15%||Fine = $2,500-$5,500 (can’t be suspended lower than $1,100)
Jail = 30 days to 2 years
|2 years||Indefinite suspension|
|2nd Offense||>.15%||Fine = $3,500-$6,500 (can’t be suspended lower than $1,100)
Jail = 90 days to 3 years
|2 years||Indefinite suspension|
|3rd Offense||<.10%||Fine = $3,800-$6,300
Jail = 60 days to 3 years
|3 years||Indefinite suspension|
|3rd Offense||.10-.15%||Fine = $5,000-$7,500
Jail = 90 days to 4 years
|3 years||Indefinite suspension|
|3rd Offense||>.15%||Fine = $7,500-$10,000
Jail = 6 months to 5 years
|3 years – or If the 1st conviction occurs within 5 years then 4 years IID||Indefinite suspension|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||<.10%||Jail = 1-5 years||Life||Indefinite suspension|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||.10-.15%||Jail = 2-6 years||Life||Indefinite suspension|
|4th or Subsequent Offense||>.15%||Jail = 3-7 years||Life||Indefinite suspension|
Ignition Interlock Device Requirements
Many DUI convictions will also result in an ignition interlock device (IID) requirement under SC Code § 56-5-2941. In some cases, you will have the option of installing the IID instead of serving out your license suspension, while in other cases the IID will be mandatory.
And Last but not least…
Many people do not realize the long-lasting and severe consequences that can result from a DUI conviction in SC – it is not the sort of thing you just plead guilty to so it will “go away.”
It doesn’t go away!
DUI convictions cannot be expunged, and, when you begin to accumulate multiple traffic offenses including DUI or DUS (driving under suspension), you are in danger of being declared a habitual traffic offender and having your license permanently revoked.
Don’t let this happen to you. Get a DUI defense lawyer on your case immediately!
He will also need time to sift through every last detail of the arrest looking for potential defenses that can be used to get your DUI charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Questions About DUI Charges and Penalties in SC?
In the long run, the costs of a DUI conviction will most likely be greater than the costs of an effective DUI defense attorney.
Get in touch with Kent Collins by phone at 803-808-0905 or use this form to reach him online to schedule your in-person consultation.
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