If you’ve been pulled over or arrested for DUI in South Carolina, you’re probably wondering what’s ahead of you.

You’re probably confused and afraid.

Will you go to jail? Will you pay astronomical fines? Will you lose your driver’s license?

Before you face this charge alone, we recommend you get the help of an attorney as quickly as you can. An experienced attorney on your side can help to defend your rights. He or she can also advise you on choices you will have to make regarding your criminal case.

Let’s start with the basics.


You can be charged with DUI based on alcohol, drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Anyone operating a vehicle with .08% BAC or greater can be charged with Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC). This means you can be driving perfectly and still be charged with an alcohol-related crime.

If found guilty, you face some daunting consequences including fines, jail time and a suspension of your driver’s license.


The Two Parts of a DUI Case in SC: Administrative and Criminal

There are two sides to every DUI case: administrative and criminal.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles the administrative component of your DUI case. The state solicitor’s office prosecutes the criminal case against you. So it’s important to understand that both the DMV and the court system have the power to suspend your driver’s license, depending on the facts of your case.

You could be facing automatic suspension of your driver’s license under South Carolina’s implied consent rule if…

  1. You refuse to perform the breathalyzer test.
  2. You took the breathalyzer test and your BAC was .15% or higher.

Administrative Hearing

After your DUI arrest, you have the right to request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license. Your attorney will present evidence at the hearing to contest your license suspension.

If you win at the administrative hearing, you get your driver’s license back. If you lose, then your license remains suspended.

Whether you win or lose at your administrative hearing, you must still go through with the court proceedings for your DUI criminal charge.

Criminal Proceeding

The criminal justice aspect of your DUI begins when you appear before a judge and enter your plea: guilty or not guilty.

If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced by the judge.

If you plead not guilty, you then have the right to request a jury trial or a bench trial.

Your attorney will get to work analyzing the facts of your case. He or she will look for mistakes or inconsistencies in the actions of the police officers or solicitors who are involved in your case.

Next, your lawyer will negotiate with the solicitor in the hope of getting you a plea deal and avoiding a criminal trial. If the two of them reach an agreement, you may receive a lesser sentence in exchange for pleading guilty.

However, if your attorney and the solicitor don’t work out a plea deal, then your case goes to trial. Your lawyer will use any available defense strategies to try to prove your innocence.

If you’re found not guilty, then you are free to go, but if you’re found guilty, then you are convicted of a DUI and must go on to be sentenced. Your sentence may include fines and or jail time, in addition to drug and alcohol treatment and a suspended driver’s license.

Fines, penalties and jail time for a DUI in SC

South Carolina DUI punishments get harsher as people break DUI laws again and again. Take the ignition interlock device (IID), for example. Drivers generally don’t have to install an IID after a first offense (unless your Breath Alcohol Content was .15 or greater) but they may upon subsequent convictions.

By the fourth offense, judges must impose a jail sentence of at least one year and the convicted person’s driver’s license to be permanently revoked.

South Carolina uses what’s called a “10-year lookback period.” That’s where they use the last 10 years to determine whether a conviction is your first, second, etc.

For example, if you were convicted of DUI at age 24 and then again at age 33, you’d be facing second offense charges.

Types of penalties you could face for a DUI conviction

South Carolina has a long list of potential punishments for DUI offenders. If you accept a plea deal or receive a DUI conviction as the result of a criminal trial, then you may find the following activities in your future:

  • Spending time in jail
  • Paying fines
  • Community service hours
  • Insurance rates increases
  • Having to purchase SR-22 insurance
  • Participating in an alcohol and drug safety action program (ADSAP)
  • Receiving an Ignition Interlock Device for your vehicle for a 1st offense DUI when the BAC is a .15 or higher and for 2nd offense, 3rd offense and subsequent DUIs (SC Code 56-5-2941, SC Code 56-5-2990)

Here are the graduated penalties for each DUI conviction:

DUI BAC Fine and/or Jail Time License Suspension IID
First Offense BAC < .10% $400 fine or 48 hours to 30 days in jail 6 months No
BAC .10 – .16% $500 fine or 72 hours to 30 days in jail 6 months No
BAC > .16% $1,000 fine or 30 to 90 days in jail 6 months Yes, if BAC >.15
Second Offense BAC < .10% $2,500 to $5,500 fine AND 30 days to 2 years in jail 1 year Yes
BAC .10 – .16% $2,500 to $5,500 fine AND 30 days to 2 years in jail 1 year Yes
BAC > .16% $3,500 to $6,500 fine AND 90 days to 3 years in jail 1 year Yes
Third Offense BAC < .10% $3,800 to $6,300 fine AND 60 days to 3 years in jail 2 years (4 years if 3rd offense w/i 5 years of 1st offense) Yes
BAC .10 – .16% $5,000 to $7,500 fine AND 90 days to 4 years in jail 2 years (4 years if 3rd offense w/i 5 years of 1st offense) Yes
BAC > .16% $7,500 to $10,000 fine AND 6 months to 5 years in jail 2 years (4 years if 3rd offense w/i 5 years of 1st offense) Yes
Fourth Offense BAC < .10% 1 to 5 years in jail Permanent revocation N/A
BAC .10 – .16% 2 to 6 years in jail Permanent revocation N/A
BAC > .16% 3 to 7 years in jail Permanent revocation N/A


An attorney on your side

While you have the legal right to fight a DUI without an attorney, doing so would be a huge mistake. You need a lawyer like Kent Collins who has defended numerous clients in DUI cases.

Do not plead guilty just to get the case behind you. DUI convictions have serious consequences that certainly don’t simply “go away.”

DUI lawyer Kent Collins is ready and able to discuss your case with you. He will get to the bottom of what happened and work with you on how to proceed in the court system.

Get in touch with Kent by phone at 803-808-0905 or use this form to reach him online to schedule your in-person consultation.

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