While there are many confusing aspects of DUI cases in South Carolina, one of the most confusing for many people is the distinction between administrative and criminal penalties. When you get arrested for DUI in South Carolina, this is a criminal charge that will lead to prosecution in state court if you do not resolve your case prior to trial. However, a DUI arrest also triggers administrative proceedings at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and these proceedings can result in penalties even if you are not ultimately convicted at trial.

There are three primary types of administrative penalties in South Carolina DUI cases. These are (i) financial penalties (including reinstatement fees and the requirement to carry SR22 insurance coverage), (ii) mandatory counseling from the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), and (iii) a driver’s license suspension. In this article, we will address the administrative DUI driver’s license suspension in detail.

When are You at Risk for an Administrative Driver’s License Suspension in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s administrative DUI driver’s license suspension law appears in Section 56-5-2951 of the Code of Laws. In pertinent part, the law states:

“The Department of Motor Vehicles shall suspend the driver’s license, permit, or nonresident operating privilege of, or deny the issuance of a license or permit to, a person who drives a motor vehicle and refuses to submit to a test provided for in Section 56-5-2950 or has an alcohol concentration of fifteen one-hundredths of one percent or more. The arresting officer shall issue a notice of suspension which is effective beginning on the date of the alleged violation.”

In other words, there are two circumstances in which a DUI traffic stop can result in an administrative suspension: (i) you refuse a breath or blood test in violation of South Carolina’s “implied consent” law, or (ii) you submit to testing and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is recorded at 0.15 percent or more. In either of these scenarios, the arresting officer will issue a “notice of suspension,” and the suspension will be effective immediately.

What are Your Rights After Receiving a “Notice of Suspension” During a DUI Arrest?

If you receive an administrative suspension during your DUI arrest, you have two options, both of which must be exercised within 30 days of the date of your notice of suspension.

First, you have the right to request an administrative hearing. This is a formal, contested hearing before the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings within the South Carolina DMV.

Second, you have the right to obtain a temporary alcohol license (also known as a temporary alcohol restricted license, or “TARL”). This costs $100, and it allows you to “drive without any restrictive conditions pending the outcome of [your] contested case hearing” at the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.

If you request an administrative hearing within 30 days, you will receive a case hearing date from the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. You must make arrangements to be at your hearing as scheduled, and you will want to have an experienced South Carolina DUI attorney representing you. The hearing is not simply a formality, and in order to restore your driving privileges, you must be able to present successful arguments as to whether:

  • You were lawfully arrested and detained;
  • You were given a written copy of and verbally informed of your rights under South Carolina’s “implied consent” law;
  • You violated South Carolina’s “implied consent” law; or,
  • There were issues with your breath or blood test.

Examples of issues with breath and blood tests that can support arguments for driver’s license reinstatement after an administrative suspension include:

  • The officer who administered the test was not qualified to do so under South Carolina law;
  • The test was not administered in compliance with South Carolina law;
  • The testing device was not functioning properly during your breath or blood test.

While an administrative hearing is not a trial and is not subject to the same procedures and protections as criminal matters in state court, it is still a complex process that requires experienced legal representation. Additionally, the consequences of failing to represent yourself effectively can be severe. If you are unable to drive, this might mean that you are unable to work (or have a far more difficult time getting to work on a daily basis); and, if you get pulled over for driving on a suspended license, you can face additional criminal penalties—including a longer-term driver’s license suspension.

What Happens if You Lose Your Administrative Suspension Hearing?

If you lose your administrative suspension hearing, your administrative suspension will remain in effect; and, if you obtained a temporary alcohol license, this license would be revoked. However, the matter is not necessarily over. If you have grounds and choose to do so, you can appeal the outcome of your hearing by filing a request with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. When you file a request for an appeal, this “stays” your administrative suspension, which means that you will be able to continue driving while your appeal is pending.

If you do not file an appeal, or if your appeal is unsuccessful, then you will be required to enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program with the DAODAS. Your options for driving will be limited to obtaining a “restricted” license (the same would apply if you did not request an administrative hearing within 30 days of your arrest). A restricted license allows you to drive only to your Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program classes and, “to and from work and [your] place of education and in the course of [your] employment or education during the period of suspension.”

Discuss Your Administrative Suspension with a Rock Hill DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for DUI in Rock Hill, SC and would like to speak with a DUI lawyer about challenging your administrative suspension, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To schedule a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Michael L. Brown, Jr., call us at 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.

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