You’ve all heard about DUI — or driving under the influence.
But what determines a DUI?
How do law enforcement officers know if you’re a DUI?
What are the penalties for a DUI?
We’re going to take an in-depth look at South Carolina DUI laws.
We’ll tell you all you need to know, such as:
- The DUI laws and all related laws
- The DUI penalties
- Effects of alcohol and drugs on driving
- Whether a DUI is a felony in the state
- Whether a DUI can be dismissed
- And many more FAQs!
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
DUI Laws in South Carolina
In South Carolina, the DUI laws are as follows:
- Illegal BAC levels
- Implied Consent Law
- Drugs and driving
- Under 21 alcohol laws
Let’s look at each one.
Illegal BAC Levels
To determine if you’re a DUI, a police officer will ask you to take a chemical test (breathalyzer, blood, or urine) to check your BAC level.
Now, BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration. In other words, they will test to see how much alcohol is in your system.
In South Carolina, you’re a DUI if:
- Your BAC level is 0.08% or greater for 21 and above
- Your BAC level is 0.04% or greater if you’re operating a commercial vehicle
- Your BAC level is 0.02% or greater for those below 21
Say you’re above 21 years old but your BAC level is lower than 0.08%.
Will you not be charged with DUI?
In some cases, you can still be charged — if there is evidence that you are driving impaired. This is because some people have low alcohol tolerance (meaning a person gets drunk more quickly).
So to be safe — NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE. No matter how little you think you drank.
Implied Consent Law
Why not just refuse a chemical test?
According to South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law, you have already given consent to take a chemical test when asked to. You agreed to this when you got your SC driver’s license.
Refusing to take a chemical test will result in an immediate license suspension of 6 months on your first offense, 9 months on your second, and 12 months on your third.
Of course, if you feel the police officer had no reason to ask for a chemical test, you can file a charge against them to avoid the penalties. Just make sure to hire a DUI attorney.
Drugs and Driving
Like alcohol, drugs can also impair your driving.
NEWSFLASH! Even over-the-counter and prescription drugs can affect your driving — so it’s best to avoid driving when you’re taking any medication.
Testing for drugs in your system doesn’t have an illegal level, but that doesn’t mean you can get away if you’ve just taken one pill.
In general, a DUI can be given to you if there is enough proof that you are driving impaired — and there is any amount of drugs found in your system.
Under 21 Alcohol Laws
Yes, the BAC level for those under 21 years old is very low.
But that’s because these drivers are not even allowed to be drinking yet.
In South Carolina, anyone under the age of 21 is NOT allowed to purchase, possess, or drink alcoholic beverages.
So of course they’re also not allowed to drink and drive.
The laws are harsher for these drivers because they are still getting the hang of driving and they can make poor decisions on the road even when semi-intoxicated.
South Carolina DUI Penalties
Let’s move on to the penalties.
Yes, you can expect these to be VERY harsh — to discourage drivers from drunk or drugged driving.
Here is a table of the South Carolina DUI penalties:
|1st||$400 – $1,000||48 hours to 90 days OR community service||6-month license suspension and Ignition Interlock Device (IID)||Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and Alcohol and Drug Assessment|
|2nd||$2,100 – $6,500||5 days to 3 years||2-year suspension and IID||Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and Alcohol and Drug Assessment|
|3rd and subsequent offenses||$3,800 – $10,000||60 days to 5 years||3-year suspension and IID||Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and Alcohol and Drug Assessment|
You may receive even harsher penalties from the court IF:
- You are driving under the influence and there is a minor in the vehicle
- Your DUI resulted in property damage
- Your DUI resulted in bodily injuries
- Your DUI resulted in deaths
Effects of Alcohol and Impairing Drugs
Why so much stress on DUI?
Well, even just a glass of liquor or over-the-counter drugs can affect your brain.
Here are some effects of alcohol and impairing drugs:
- Slower reflexes
- Poor concentration
- Being overconfident or feeling that you can get away with anything (leading to rash decisions)
- Dizziness or nausea
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Reduced ability to judge distance and speed
- Difficulty to identify colors and signs
With just these effects, it’s obvious that it’s not safe for anyone to be driving when intoxicated.
Frequently Asked Questions About South Carolina DUI Laws
Want to know more about South Carolina’s DUI laws? Check out these FAQs!
Is a DUI in SC a Felony?
Generally, a DUI is a misdemeanor in South Carolina.
However, if you’re already on your 3rd offense, or if you caused damage, injury, or death, your DUI conviction will be considered a felony. And with that comes even harsher penalties.
How Likely Is Jail Time for the First DUI in South Carolina?
For your first DUI offense, you likely have to face 48 hours to 90 days of jail time. However, the court may also replace it with community service equivalent to the days or hours you’re required to be behind bars.
Is Your License Suspended Immediately After a DUI in SC?
Yes. Even if it’s just your first offense, your license is already suspended for 6 months. Plus, you will need to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) once you get your license back.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in South Carolina?
A DUI will stay on your SC criminal record FOREVER.
As for your SC driving record, most will only cover up to 10 years. So if your violation was over 10 years, then it may not be shown on your driving record.
How Do You Get a DUI Dismissed in SC?
To dismiss a DUI, you have to prove that there is no reasonable evidence showing that you were impaired. That the police officer had no right to pull you over and ask for a chemical test.
This is a difficult thing to do, but with the help of an experienced lawyer, you may be able to get it dismissed.
What Happens If You Refuse a Breathalyzer in SC?
Under the Implied Consent Law, you cannot refuse a chemical test, whether for breath, blood, or urine.
If you do, your license will automatically get suspended for at least 6 months.
To fight the penalty, you have to have proof that the police officer had no reason to ask you to take the test.
How Do I Get My License Back After a DUI in SC?
You have to fulfill all your penalties. Then complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program.
Once this is done, you have to apply for a license reinstatement.
What Is a Hardship License in SC?
A hardship license may be offered to DUIs.
This works like a restricted license. This means that you are only allowed to drive in certain areas and times during the day.
And that was everything you needed to know about South Carolina DUI laws.
Driving under the influence is NEVER worth it.
Even if you don’t damage, injure, or kill something or someone…
You should avoid it for the penalties alone.
Always say NO to DRUNK or DRUGGED DRIVING.
Be a responsible driver!