In an effort to crack down on DUI accidents and offenders, state lawmakers in 2014 enacted a measure called Emma’s Law, which requires first-time DUI offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher to have an ignition interlock installed at their own expense for at least six months.
Repeat offenders convicted of DUI in South Carolina will have one installed even if their BAC was at the legal limit.
Legal Alcohol Limits Among South Carolina Drivers
In South Carolina, S.C. Code Ann. 56-5-2930 is the state statute for operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is illegal under this provision to operate a motor vehicle if your blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher.
If you are driving a commercial vehicle, the threshold is 0.04. Drivers under 21 have a threshold of 0.02. While South Carolina youths under 21 are permitted to drink in private residences so long as the alcohol is legally purchased, they will be penalized even for this low level of impairment if they get behind the wheel.
This is the statutory minimum, but the law also allows for a determination to be made on the more subjective standard of “under the influence of alcohol (and/ or drugs) to the extent a person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.” While these cases are more difficult for prosecutors to prove, the prosecution has ways of securing a conviction even without a BAC above the legal limit.
Your chances of avoiding conviction will improve substantially with the aid of a well-prepared and experienced Columbia DUI defense attorney.
Penalty for Drunk Driving in South Carolina
If you are convicted of drunk driving in South Carolina, your penalty is going to depend on:
- Your level of alleged intoxication;
- Number of prior convictions;
- Whether you refused to undergo a BAC test at the scene (as required by implied consent laws);
- Whether anyone was injured or killed in a crash caused by your impairment.
Driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor for the first three offenses, with penalties ranging from 30 days to three years in jail, fines ranging between $400 and $6,300, and license revocations ranging from six months to four years.
A driver who has three or more prior convictions can face felony charges, with a potential for between five and seven years in prison and permanent loss of driving privileges. A repeat offender can also lose their right to vote for the duration of the sentence – including probation or parole – though they can apply to have that right reinstated once the sentence has been served.
The better option, of course, is to team with an experienced Columbia criminal defense attorney to avoid conviction in the first place if possible.