Understanding the Consequences of DUI Charges in South Carolina

May 09, 2023

Under What Circumstances Can You Be Charged With a DUI in South Carolina?

South Carolina has strict laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI), and the consequences for violating them can be severe. You can be charged with a DUI in the state in two ways. First, if you are pulled over by law enforcement, and they determine that you are under the influence of alcohol or any drug to the point that your ability to drive has been appreciably impaired, you may face a DUI charge regardless of your blood alcohol content (BAC). Second, if you were driving and your BAC tested higher than .08% (or .04% if you have a commercial license), you can be charged with a “per se” DUI. A per se DUI charge is possible even if you do not appear impaired or unable to operate your vehicle.

If you are facing charges for any type of DUI, you likely have questions about the penalties you could face for a conviction. A knowledgeable South Carolina DUI defense lawyer can explain the state’s sentencing guidelines and why retaining solid legal counsel can be essential, even if you previously have a clean record. Read on to learn more, or contact our law firm today to speak with our helpful legal team.

What Penalties Could You Face for a DUI?

The consequences for a DUI and a per se DUI are the same in South Carolina. Section 56-5-2933 of the state’s code of laws specifies the penalties for the different types of DUIs. The main factors which will typically affect your sentencing are how many DUI offenses you’ve had in the last ten years and your level of intoxication, which is usually determined by your BAC. However, because sentencing guidelines allow for a range of recommended penalties for each charge, judges may also factor in other information, such as your criminal record, the circumstances of your arrest, and more, when determining your exact sentence.

For all DUI convictions, you must enroll in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, complete an alcohol and drug assessment, and follow through on any treatment plans recommended following the evaluation. Most individuals will have their driver’s license restricted or suspended following a DUI and will likely need to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles if they wish to drive. Other specific penalties are as follows.

First Offense

You could face anywhere from 48 hours to 90 days in jail for a first-time DUI charge. You will also need to pay a fine of $400-$1000. As a first-time offender, you may be able to replace your jail sentence with an equal amount of community service. Your license will be suspended for six months, although you may be able to get a provisional license by fulfilling certain requirements. If your BAC is above .15%, you cannot get a provisional license, but you can enroll in the IID program to regain your ability to drive.

Second Offense

The penalties increase to five days to three years in jail and a fine of $2100 to $6500 for a second offense. The exact level of your BAC will determine where you fall within these broad sentencing guidelines. Your license will be suspended for at least a year. A high BAC can increase the time your driver’s license suspension lasts. You will also be required to install an IID in all vehicles you own for a period of time. If you do not install an IID, your vehicle will be immobilized, and you will be required to give up your license plates and registration temporarily.

Third Offense

For a third DUI offense in ten years, you could be sentenced to 60 days to five years in jail and a fine of $3800 to $10,000. Your license will be suspended for two years, and you must install an IID. If you have three DUI convictions in five years, the license suspension increases to four years.

Is It Possible to Get a Felony DUI?

Yes, felony DUIs are possible in South Carolina. There are three main ways to get a felony DUI:

  • Have four or more DUIs in ten years
  • Cause great bodily injury to a passenger or another individual by driving while intoxicated
  • Cause the death of an outside individual or someone in your own vehicle through an auto accident while intoxicated

If you are charged with a felony DUI, you should contact an experienced felony defense lawyer immediately. The consequences of the charges can be extreme, including lengthy prison sentences, permanent revocation of your license, and huge fines, not to mention the damage to your career and loss of rights, such as the right to vote.

How Can an Experienced South Carolina DUI Defense Lawyer Help You?

It is crucial to seek the advice of a trusted defense lawyer as soon as possible following your DUI arrest. Even a first-time DUI offense can have serious consequences. You may also face additional charges, such as an implied consent or open container violation, which can increase the penalties even more. It can be confusing to determine the extent of the potential penalties that could be enforced under South Carolina’s complex laws.

Your defense lawyer can investigate your case, clearly explain your charges, and determine your legal options. You may be able to fight the validity of the arrest and have the charges dismissed, be eligible for a plea deal, or get a suspension of your sentence. The defense lawyers at Bannon Law Group are here to ensure your rights are upheld, no matter the situation. Contact our firm today at 843-815-4505 to learn more.