South Carolina DUI Penalties

If you've been charged with drunk driving, know what you're up against.

In South Carolina, state laws impose a strict set of penalties on motorists convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). Those penalties can include prison time, monetary fines, license suspension and a court-ordered ignition interlock device (IID) - that is, a breathalyzer connected to your ignition.

Navigating the legal implications of a DUI charge can be confusing. Turn to attorney Matt Bodman for the guidance you need. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

DUI charges, penalties

South Carolina has two separate laws intended to prevent drivers from operating motor vehicles while they are impaired. You can be charged with DUI if your driving was impaired due to alcohol; impairment is automatically inferred if your BAC was 0.08 or more, but you can also face charges for a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 if there is other evidence to show that your driving was demonstrably impaired.

While DUI and DUAC (driving with unlawful alcohol content) are not technically the same charge, they are effectively interchangeable. They carry the same penalties, and the state considers previous DUI and DUAC charges in the same manner when determining penalties for future charges.

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Penalties for DUI in South Carolina

The penalties for any given DUI or DUAC charge depend on the offender's blood alcohol content (BAC) and number of previous convictions. Every conviction carries a mandatory license suspension in addition to fines and/or jail time.

BAC < 0.10 BAC 0.10 - 0.16 BAC > 0.16
First Offense

(misdemeanor)

$400 fine

OR

2-30 days jail

6-month license suspension

$500 fine

OR

3-30 days jail

6-month license suspension

$1000 fine

OR

30 to 90 days jail

6-month license suspension

Second Offense

(misdemeanor)

$2100 to $5100 fine AND

5 days to 1 year jail

1-year license suspension

$2500 to $5500 fine

AND

30 days to 2 years jail

1-year license suspension

$3500 to $6500 fine

AND

90 days to 3 years jail

1-year license suspension

Third Offense

(misdemeanor)

$3800 to $6300 fine

AND

60 days to 3 years jail

2-year license suspension

$5000 to $7500 fine

AND

90 days to 4 years jail

2-year license suspension

$7500 to $10,000 fine

AND

6 months to 5 years jail

2-year license suspension

Fourth Offense

(felony)

1-5 years incarceration

Permanent license revocation

2-6 years incarceration

Permanent license revocation

3-7 years incarceration

Permanent license revocation

In any given case, sentencing may vary depending on the specific details of your case. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • For a first offense, the court may substitute community service for a fine or jail time.
  • Sentences for a second offense may be suspended, but you will be assessed a minimum fine of $1100.
  • If a third offense is committed within five years of a previous offense, the license suspension doubles to 4 years.
  • An ignition interlock device (IID) will be required after a second or third offense - and it will be installed on your vehicle at your expense.

For the purposes of determining whether a given offense is a second, third or fourth offense, the lookback period (sometimes called the "washout" period) is 10 years. For instance, if you have two previous convictions in the last 10 years, the charge you're now facing is considered a third offense. Any charges more than 10 years back do not count.

Remember, again, that DUI and DUAC are interchangeable for sentencing purposes. If, for example, you have one previous DUAC conviction and no DUI convictions in the previous 10 years, your current DUI charge is considered a second offense. The courts will also consider equivalent out-of-state convictions within the lookback period.

This pattern of escalating penalties makes it especially important to fight every single charge. If you've been charged with DUI, you need Matt Bodman on your side.

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Refusal to test: the implied consent law

South Carolina uses what's called an "implied consent" law. That means that if you choose to drive in South Carolina, you consent to chemical tests if a police officer has probable cause to believe you may be driving under the influence. Refusing to test subjects you to an automatic fine and license suspension: 6 months for a first offense, 9 months for a second offense and 1 year for a third or subsequent offense.

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Felony DUI

The penalties for DUI become much stiffer when the intoxicated driver causes grievous bodily harm or death. If you cause great bodily injury while driving under the influence, you face a mandatory fine of $5,100 to $10,100 and imprisonment from 30 days to 15 years. If you kill someone while driving under the influence, the mandatory fine increases to $10,100 to $25,100, and the prison sentence increases to 1 to 25 years. Note that this law applies to single-vehicle crashes in which a passenger is injured in addition to accidents involving other vehicles or pedestrians.

If you've been charged with felony DUI, it's more important than ever to get an experienced defense attorney in Matt Bodman on your side. Having a felony conviction on your record can have major implications for your future, to say nothing of the fines and prison sentences themselves.

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