Getting a DUI in South Carolina has several consequences. Upon conviction, you may be required to pay substantial fines, you may have to perform community service, and you may even have to spend time in jail. Having a DUI conviction on your record will also lead to increased insurance premiums, and it can impact your life in various other ways as well.
Thanks to a law passed in the summer of 2023, getting a DUI in South Carolina now also means installing an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle.
South Carolina’s New Ignition Interlock Devices Law (2023 Update)
While South Carolina has had an ignition interlock device law for several years, the law used to only apply in limited circumstances. Specifically, the law previously provided that individuals convicted of DUI would be required to participate in South Carolina’s ignition interlock device program only if: (i) their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.15 percent or above, (ii) they violated South Carolina’s implied consent law, or (iii) they caused a serious accident or had a minor in their vehicle.
But this changed on May 26, 2023.
This is when South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed S.36, known as the Ignition Interlock Bill, into law. Under S.36, South Carolina’s ignition interlock law now applies to all drivers who get arrested for DUI with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above.
Complying with South Carolina’s ignition interlock device program isn’t easy—or cheap. If you are required to enroll in the program, you must have a certified IID installed in your vehicle at an authorized service center at your expense. You must also go to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) and obtain an “II” restricted license. Once you take these steps, you can drive your IID-equipped vehicle provided that:
- You blow into the IID and allow it to take your picture each time you drive;
- You do not have someone else blow into the IID for you; and,
- You take your vehicle to an authorized service center for an IID inspection and to have your IID data downloaded every 60 days.
What if you don’t install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle after a DUI conviction in South Carolina? Participation in the state’s ignition interlock device program is required; and, if you don’t participate, you won’t be able to restore your driving privileges. The South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (DPPPS) makes this clear, stating:
“Drivers with an offense date on or after October 1, 2014, will not have the option of getting their driver’s license until successful completion of the IID Program. Those drivers who decide not to enroll will remain suspended indefinitely.”
In short, if you are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina and you blew above the legal limit (or refused the breath test in violation of South Carolina’s implied consent law), a conviction will mean either installing an ignition interlock device in your vehicle or risking the indefinite loss of your driving privileges. While neither of these are ideal (or cheap), this is now what the law requires regardless of your BAC.
South Carolina Ignition Interlock Device Exemptions
South Carolina’s DUI laws are strict, and all individuals who get convicted of DUI will now be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles in most cases. However, there are two exemptions under the state’s ignition interlock device program that allow individuals with DUIs to drive without an IID.
The first is the employment exemption. As the DPPPS explains: “An offender that is required in the course and scope of his or her employment to drive a motor vehicle owned by the offender’s employer may drive his or her employer’s motor vehicle without installation of an IID, provided that the offender’s use of the employer’s motor vehicle is solely for the employer’s business purpose.” In other words, if you drive a company vehicle for work, then you can continue to drive that vehicle without an IID (after seeking an employment exemption through the SCDMV)—as long as this is your first offense. However, if you own your own business, you will not be able to drive a company vehicle unless you convince the court that “the vehicle’s ownership by the business serves a legitimate business purpose and the titling and registration for the vehicle by the business was not done to circumvent the intent of the law.”
The second is the medical exemption. This exemption applies if you have a medical condition that makes you “incapable of properly operating” an ignition interlock device. To secure a medical exemption under South Carolina’s ignition interlock device program, you must request a medical waiver from the SCDMV.
Avoiding Ignition Interlock Device Installation (and Other Penalties) After a DUI Arrest
The costs and challenges of dealing with South Carolina’s ignition interlock device program are just a few of the many reasons why you should fight your DUI. Fortunately, there are several potential defenses available, and an experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to use the facts of your case to protect you to the fullest extent possible.
When you hire a DUI defense lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will evaluate all options for fighting your drunk driving charge and helping you avoid the consequences of a DUI conviction. Depending on the facts of your case, this may involve:
- Challenging the legality or constitutionality of your traffic stop or arrest
- Showing that the arresting officer failed to follow appropriate breath testing procedures
- Showing that your BAC reading is invalid or unreliable
- Raising other issues with your traffic stop, arrest, or BAC reading
- Getting your charge reduced to a “wet reckless.”
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced DUI Defense Lawyer in Rock Hill, SC
If you need to know more about the consequences of getting a DUI in South Carolina and the defenses you may have available, we encourage you to contact us promptly. Call 803-328-8822 or get in touch online to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in Rock Hill, SC.