It a lesson that many criminal defendants learn the hard way: even the first DUI offense can carry costly, time-consuming consequences which plague the defendant's life for years to come.
Mandatory Sentencing for a DUI Conviction
The South Carolina Code of Laws sets sentencing guidelines for defendants who are convicted of a DUI for the first time. Code § 56-5-2933 requires:
- A fine of $400 or imprisonment for a period of forty-eight hours to thirty days. A court cannot force a defendant to do community service in lieu of imprisonment, but at the defendant's request and in the judge's discretion, may order it.
- If the defendant's blood alcohol concentration was between .1 and .16, the sentence must be a fine of $500 or imprisonment for a period of seventy-two hours to thirty days. This, too, can be served through community service with the defendant's consent and in the court's discretion.
- If the defendant's blood alcohol concentration was over .16, he or she must be fined $1000 or sentenced to a jail term between thirty and ninety days (to be substituted for community service with the defendant's consent and at the court's discretion).
- Any person convicted of any DUI offense must complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program.
Code § 56-5-2941 also requires an ignition interlock device to be installed in a first-time DUI defendant's vehicle if his or her blood alcohol concentration was at or above .15.
The Consequences That Many Defendants Don't Know About
Unfortunately, there are many collateral consequences of a DUI conviction beyond those listed in the statute. A DUI case requires several court appearances, and it is fairly inevitable that a defendant will have to miss work as a result. The community service statute specifically prohibits a schedule which interferes with the defendant's work schedule, but the added stress and burden of this extracurricular activity often impacts the defendant's performance at work. The substance abuse screening and treatment appointments also take time away from work. On the whole, the chances of getting thorough a DUI case without any impact upon the defendant's work life are not great.
There are also administrative consequences through the Department of Motor Vehicles. A first time DUI results in the suspension of the defendant's driving privileges. The driver must meet all requirements and apply for reinstatement of his or her license. As with most DMV matters, this process is neither quick nor pleasant. If a driver has temporary or restricted driving privileges reinstated, he or she must later go back to the DMV yet again when eligible for reinstatement of full driving privileges.
Defendants Have Rights During Criminal DUI Proceedings
Every defendant has legal rights which must be protected during DUI proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney can aggressively defend these rights to ensure a fair outcome in any criminal case. Matt Bodman is a former prosecutor who has been defending DUI cases in and around the Columbia area for decades. His firsthand knowledge of both sides of the criminal defense system ensures that his clients are treated fairly in their DUI cases.