South Carolina’s drunk driving laws are strict. You can be convicted for having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% regardless of your level of impairment, and a conviction for a first-time offense can mean fines, jail time, and other penalties.
If you are facing a drunk driving charge, it is important to understand how South Carolina’s DUI laws apply to your situation. Is your BAC enough to warrant a conviction? Could you be facing charges in addition to a DUI? What penalties are at stake in your case? These are all critical questions—and you need to learn the answers as soon as possible.
Overview of South Carolina’s DUI Laws
So, you are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina. What do you need to know? Here is an overview of South Carolina’s DUI laws:
Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol
There are two ways you can face a DUI charge in South Carolina. The first involves operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Under Section 56-6-2930 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, if you are “under the influence of alcohol to the extent that [your] faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired,” then you can face a DUI charge regardless of your BAC.
Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (Per Se DUI)
The second way you can face a DUI charge in South Carolina is based on your BAC. If you are driving and your BAC is 0.08% or above, then you are in violation of South Carolina law. For this type of DUI charge, it doesn’t matter whether you are still able to drive safely. If your BAC is over the legal limit, this alone is enough to establish criminal culpability. This is known as a per se DUI.
Penalties for a DUI in South Carolina
Under South Carolina law, the penalties for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and for a per se DUI are the same. These penalties increase for high BACs and for second and subsequent offenses. If you are facing a DUI charge as a first-time offender and your BAC was less than 0.10% (or your BAC wasn’t measured), the penalties you are facing under South Carolina’s DUI laws include:
- Up to a $400 fine
- Nearly $600 in additional assessments and surcharges
- 48 hours to 30 days in jail (the judge may sentence you to community service in lieu of jail time)
- Loss of your driver’s license for six months
If your BAC was 0.10% or above, you are facing up to a $500 fine and a minimum of 72 hours of jail time or community service. If your BAC was 0.16% or above, you are facing up to a $1,000 fine and a minimum of 30 days of jail time or community service.
The penalties for repeat offenders increase dramatically under South Carolina’s DUI laws. For example, if this is your second offense, you are facing $2,100 to $5,100 in fines plus an additional $5,600 in assessments and surcharges. You are also facing up to one year in jail and a one-year driver’s license suspension. If this is your third offense, you are facing more than $13,000 in financial penalties, up to three years of imprisonment, and loss of your driving privileges for two years.
In most cases, a DUI is a misdemeanor offense under South Carolina law. However, it is possible to face a felony DUI charge in some circumstances.
Specifically, prosecutors can pursue felony DUI charges in cases involving accidents resulting in “great bodily injury or death.” Under Section 56-5-2945 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, “great bodily injury” is defined as an injury that, “creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
In felony DUI cases, the penalties that are at stake depending on whether the accident results in great bodily injury or death. When an accident results in great bodily injury, potential penalties include more than $20,000 in financial liability and anywhere from 30 days to 15 years of imprisonment. When an accident results in death, potential penalties include more than $50,000 in financial liability and from one to 25 years behind bars.
Implied Consent Violations
Under South Carolina’s implied consent law (Section 56-5-1950 of the South Carolina Code of Laws) all drivers are required to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test when they get pulled over on suspicion of DUI. If you refuse testing during a DUI stop, you can be charged with an implied consent violation in addition to being charged with a DUI.
Under Section 56-5-2951, implied consent violations carry an automatic 90-day driver’s license suspension. This increases to 180 days if you have a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension on your record. However, similar to DUI charges, there are several potential defenses to implied consent violations, and you should consult with a lawyer promptly about protecting your ability to drive.
Open Container Violations
In addition to implied consent violations, many individuals who are charged with DUI in South Carolina will also face charges for open container violations. Under Sections 61-4-110 and 61-6-4020 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, if you have an open container anywhere in your vehicle except the trunk or luggage compartment, you can face an additional $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
While South Carolina’s DUI laws establish several different offenses that carry several different penalties, the laws establish several defenses to DUI charges and related offenses as well. For an overview of these defenses, you can read 5 Types of Defenses to DUI Charges in South Carolina.
Talk to a Rock Hill, SC DUI Lawyer for Free
If you are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Rock Hill, SC DUI lawyer Michael L. Brown, Jr., call 803-328-8822 or get in touch online now.