FAQs about South Carolina DUI Charges

Accurate answers you can trust from a knowledgeable SC DUI criminal defense lawyer

Finding accurate information about drunk driving charges in South Carolina can be a challenge. With so much information at your fingertips, it's easy to get overwhelmed. But if you have been charged with drunk driving in South Carolina and need answers, you've come to the right place.

South Carolina DUI defense attorney Matt Bodman understands the pressures facing people dealing with serious charges. He spent five years working as a public prosecutor in Richland County, S.C. During that time, he handled many cases involving DUI charges. Since 2002, Bodman has put his knowledge to work for clients as a private criminal defense attorney.

His experience as a prosecutor and a defense attorney has given Bodman an extraordinary amount of knowledge and understanding of South Carolina's complex drunk driving laws. He understands how the legal system works, and he's eager to share that knowledge with people like you.

Find the information you need now about your DUI charge

Attorney Bodman takes a detail-oriented approach toward every DUI case. He carefully reviews the evidence and makes sure all the rules and regulations were followed throughout arrest and subsequent legal proceedings. He's also well aware of the latest developments and changes in South Carolina's DUI laws.

This hands-on approach guides everything Bodman does at his firm. He works with a limited number of clients so he can devote his full attention to their cases. That's why you can trust his answers below - and trust him to handle your case.

"The stakes are extremely high in drunk driving cases in South Carolina," Bodman said. "Your clean criminal record could be on the line if you're convicted of drunk driving. That's why it's critical that you contact me as soon as possible."

Call (866) 806-8608 and schedule a free consultation.

Frequently asked questions about drunk driving charges in South Carolina


When do I need a DUI attorney?

The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, protecting your rights, the better off you will be. If you have just been charged with drunk driving, contact an attorney immediately. It's especially important to act quickly if you want to retain your driver's license.

Your driver's license will automatically be suspended for 6 months (1st DUI offense) to permanently (4th DUI offense) depending on the circumstances of your case.

An experienced South Carolina DUI defense lawyer can also challenge the evidence in your case, including:

  • Breathalyzer test results - Was the test administered correctly? Was the evidence stored properly?
  • Arrest report - Did the arresting officer follow all the rules and regulations?

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I need an Columbia, SC attorney and I'm in college. Do you represent students?

Yes, attorney Bodman represents students from the Columbia-area colleges who need help with a DUI or some other charge. Call today for a free case review.

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How much can someone drink and be legally allowed to drive?

The legal limit for drinking and driving in South Carolina varies. In general, most drivers may be inferred under the influence if their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. Generally speaking, a man weighing 168 pounds would likely have to drink 4 beers in 1 hour in order record a 0.08 BAC. * See disclaimer at bottom of page.

You can learn more about how to calculate BAC on our "drink calculator" graphic.

It's also important to note that the penalties for DUI in South Carolina are much tougher for drivers with higher BAC levels. There are two thresholds for tougher penalties - 0.10 percent and 0.16 percent.

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What is the legal limit for drivers who are under 21 years old?

The legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol in South Carolina for drivers under 21 years is 0.02 BAC. For the same 168 pound man listed above, 2 beers in 1 hour would be more than enough for someone under 21 to be arrested for drunk driving. * See disclaimer at bottom of page.

But even if a driver under 21 years old has less alcohol in their blood system, he could still be subject to arrest for underage drinking, possession of alcohol and many other charges. Columbia, S.C. police officers vigorously enforce such regulations, especially near the campus of the University of South Carolina.

Attorney Bodman is well-versed in DUI laws based on his extensive work on drunk driving cases in Columbia and other communities throughout South Carolina. If you or your child has been charged with underage drinking or drunk driving, contact our office today. Even if you live out of state and need a South Carolina attorney, it's smart to obtain representation from a lawyer with a comprehensive understanding of the SC legal system.

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Do I have to take a breath, blood or urine test if I'm stopped?

South Carolina requires drivers arrested by police officers for driving under the influence of alcohol to take a breath, blood or urine test. That's because South Carolina has an "implied consent" law.

If you refuse to take one of these three tests, your driver's license will be automatically suspended for six months. However, there is a way to get back on the road with a license.

If your driver's license is suspended because you refused to take one of these tests, you have 30 days to request a hearing to challenge your license suspension. You will be able to obtain a temporary alcohol license to drive from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles if your license is suspended. You have 30 days to submit such a request to the DMV in South Carolina.

It's also important to remember that mistakes often occur during a breath, blood or urine test. Common mistakes include:

  • Arresting officer uses equipment wrong.
  • Officer fails to follow required rules and regulations.
  • Test sample stored improperly.

An experienced South Carolina DUI defense lawyer can carefully investigate your case and help you explore all the legal options available to you.

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Do I have to take a field sobriety test?

No. Field sobriety tests in South Carolina are completely voluntary. You have a right to decline and refuse to participate in a field sobriety test. If you consent to take these tests, the results could be used to charge you with DUI.

In South Carolina, police officers often ask people suspected of driving drunk to take one of three field sobriety tests:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) - This test requires you to follow a light with your eyes without moving your head. Police officers that give this test are looking for involuntary eye movements known as horizontal gaze nystagmus, in which a person's eyes move erratically up and down or from side to side.
  • One Leg Stand (OLS) - This test involves standing on one leg and raising your other leg in the air and holding your raised leg in the air. Completing this test can be difficult even if you're sober. That's why this test is often considered unreliable.
  • Walk and Turn (WAT) - This test requires you to walk in a straight line, then turn and walk back in the same direction. Many sober people fail to perform this task due a wide range of factors, including poor balance or various health problems.

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What if the officer does not give me my "Miranda" warning?

A Miranda warning refers to the statement police officers must read to anyone who is in police custody, before he is interrogated. According to a 1966 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, police officers must inform a suspect in police custody of his right to remain silent or to request an attorney before answering a police officer's questions. If the Miranda rights are not read, the information provided by a person during police questioning cannot be used as evidence in court.

What does this mean for your DUI arrest? Police might videotape a person's arrest and Miranda warnings. If they are not videotaped, the case could be dismissed.

This subtle difference is one of the many reasons why it's critical to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Your rights may have been violated, but you may not know for sure until you talk to a lawyer.

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What if I live in another state and am arrested in South Carolina for DUI?

Out-of-state drivers are sometimes arrested for drunk driving in South Carolina, especially in Columbia, the state capital and home of the University of South Carolina. If you are arrested DUI in South Carolina, the consequences of your arrest will likely follow you back to your home state due to "Interstate Compact" laws. As result, you could have your driver's license suspended, be fined hundreds or thousands of dollars or even sentenced to prison in South Carolina.

If you are arrested for drunk driving, you need to resolve your case favorably. The same applies if you're an out-of-state college student in South Carolina. Even if you have a driver's license in another state, you could lose your driver's license and not be able to drive in South Carolina or other states.

Drunk driving laws differ dramatically from one state to another. You may know an experienced DUI attorney in your hometown, but he or she might not be familiar with South Carolina's complex drunk driving laws. That's why it's critical that you have a Columbia SC DUI defense attorney on your side who understands the legal system and knows how to get results. Talk to Matt Bodman today for a free consultation.

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* (Disclaimer: Because many factors can affect your BAC, do not use results from a drink calculator or general statements about the number of drinks you can consume based on your weight to determine whether you are legally able to drive. Your safest move is never to drink and drive).

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