A DUI conviction in SC can result in significant fines, jail time, and other consequences – and a DUI conviction cannot be expunged in SC.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, you are probably wondering, “What’s next? Can I fight this? Will I be convicted? Will I go to jail, get hit with astronomical fines, or lose my driver’s license?

You can’t turn back the clock, use your turn signal at that intersection, and undo the traffic stop and DUI arrest. You can take the first step in fighting the charges by calling an experienced DUI defense attorney who will investigate your charges, answer your questions, and fight to keep this off your record.

Below, we will cover some of the basics of DUI charges and the consequences of a DUI conviction in SC, including:

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.

DUI & DUAC Charges in SC

What are the elements of these three DUI offenses?

DUI Charges

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:

  1. 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 is running. Even if the car was 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

DUAC Charges

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:

  1. 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,
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Felony DUI

SC Code § 56-5-2945 says that a person can be convicted of felony DUI if they:

  1. Drive a motor vehicle,
  2. While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,
  3. While driving, “does any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle,” and
  4. 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.”

Fines, Penalties, and Jail Time for DUI Offenses

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.

Lookback Period in SC for Prior Convictions

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.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences for DUI in SC

As you can see in the chart below, 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.

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.

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.

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:

Charge of DUI or DUAC BAC Level

Penalty 

(does not include court costs and assessments)

Mandatory IID License Suspension
1st Offense < .10%

Fine = $400

OR

Jail = 48 hours to 30 days

None 6 months
1st Offense .10-.15%

Fine = $500

OR

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

OR

Jail = 30 to 90 days

6 successful months to get license back Indefinite suspension
2nd Offense <.10%

Fine = $2,100-$5,100

AND

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)

AND

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)

AND

Jail = 90 days to 3 years

2 years Indefinite suspension
3rd Offense <.10%

Fine = $3,800-$6,300

AND

Jail = 60 days to 3 years

3 years Indefinite suspension
3rd Offense .10-.15%

Fine = $5,000-$7,500

AND

Jail = 90 days to 4 years

3 years Indefinite suspension
3rd Offense >.15%

Fine = $7,500-$10,000

AND

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

 

Get a DUI Defense Lawyer on Your Side Now

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 revoked.

Get a DUI defense lawyer on your case immediately – in the long run, the costs of a DUI conviction will most likely be greater than the costs of an effective DUI defense attorney, and your attorney will need to begin working on your case right away, so you do not miss important deadlines like jury trial requests and implied consent hearing requests.

Questions About DUI Charges and Penalties? 

DUI lawyer Kent Collins will investigate your charges, answer your questions, and begin investigating your case right away to work on getting your case dismissed and getting your license restored if you also have an implied consent violation.

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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