With the possibility of jail time and the loss of your freedom after being charged with DUI in South Carolina, it is important that you have a strong understanding of these charges. The Woods Law Firm can help you build a strong defense against these charges and will protect your rights during this difficult time. Below, we discuss seven things that you need to know when facing DUI charges in South Carolina.
1. The Definition of DUI in South Carolina
There are two important areas of South Carolina law that pertain to driving under the influence, S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2933 and S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2930. S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2933 is what most people think of with drinking and driving. It makes it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. However, many people do not realize that there is another type of DUI offense, which is covered under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2933. According to this law, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of them that materially and appreciably impairs your faculties to drive a vehicle. So, even if your BAC is below 0.08%, you may still be charged with DUI if your driving ability is affected by your drinking or drug intake.
Another important law regarding DUI arrests in South Carolina is the so-called “implied consent” law. S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2950 says that any person who drives in the state has given consent to breath, blood or urine tests to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs if arrested for DUI. If you refuse to take one of these tests, you can face the loss of your driving privileges.
2. The Penalties for a DUI in South Carolina
The penalties for a DUI in South Carolina depend on how many times you have been convicted for the offense and your BAC. The expected penalties are as follows:
- .08% BAC or lower - A fine up to $4oo or imprisonment for at least 48 hours, up to 30 days
- .10% BAC to less than .16% BAC – A fine of $500 or imprisonment for at least 72 hours, up to 30 days
- .16% BAC or more – A fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for at least 30 days, up to 90 days, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for one year
- .08% BAC or lower - A fine of $2,100 to $5,100 or imprisonment for at least 5 days, up to one year, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for two years
- .10% BAC to less than .16% BAC – A fine of $2,500 to $5,500 or imprisonment for at least 30 days, up to two years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for two years
- .16% BAC or more – A fine of $3,500 to $6,500 or imprisonment for at least 90 days, up to three years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for two years
- .08% BAC or lower - A fine of $3,800 to $6,300 or imprisonment for at least 60 days, up to three years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for three years
- .10% BAC to less than .16% BAC – A fine of $5,000 to $7,500 or imprisonment for at least 90 days, up to four years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for three years
- .16% BAC or more – A fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for at least 30 days, up to 90 days, up to four years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for three years
Fourth or Subsequent Offense
- .08% BAC or lower - Imprisonment for at least one year, up to five years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for your lifetime
- .10% BAC to less than .16% BAC – Imprisonment for at least two years, up to six years, requirement to install an ignition interlock device for your lifetime
- .16% BAC or more – Imprisonment for at least three years, up to seven years , requirement to install an ignition interlock device for your lifetime
Other Notes on Penalties
First-time offenders can be ordered to community service instead of jail time. South Carolina also requires that all convicted individuals participate in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). You will receive a treatment recommendation after you are evaluated.
3. Where Your DUI Case May Be Tried
South Carolina consists of 46 counties with Greenville, Richland and Charleston Counties being the largest ones in the state. Current rules require magistrate and municipal courts to try DUI cases within 120 days of the arrest or 60 days if the defendant does not request a jury trial.
The main courthouses that deal with DUI cases for each of these counties are listed below.
426 N. Main Street
Greenville, SC 29601
Phone: (864) 467-6650
Court Clerk: Pam Larson
Court Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
2500 Decker Blvd.
Columbia, SC 29206
Phone: (803) 576-2300
Judge: Benjamin Franklin Byrd
Court Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Upper Township Magistrate
400 Northeast Dr. Suite I
Columbia, SC 29203
Phone: (803) 576-2570
Chief Magistrate: Judge Tomothy Clinton Edward
Court Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
180 Lockwood Blvd.
Charleston, SC 29403
Phone: (843) 724-7460
Court Director: Lakesiya L. Cofield
Court Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Lonnie Hamilton, III Public Service Building
4045 Bridge View Drive, Suite B143
North Charleston, SC 29405
Phone: (843) 202-6600
Court Hours: 8l30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
4. The Lifelong Consequences of a DUI Conviction in South Carolina
In addition to the possibility of facing imprisonment and hefty fines and court costs, conviction of a DUI can cause many other negative consequences on your life. DUI convictions are not eligible for expungement in South Carolina, so if you have a conviction for one, you will have a lifelong criminal record. Employers, rental units, creditors and others may be able to find this information about you. A conviction can interfere with your ability to keep your job, get a job, retain legal immigration status in the United States, be approved for housing and other benefits. Having a criminal record can negatively impact your reputation. Additionally, you will face much higher insurance rates and be required to carry expensive SR-22 insurance after a conviction.
5. The Possible Defenses You Can Raise
You may be able to raise a number of defenses in your DUI case, even if you were drinking. Some of these include:
The Arrest Was Not Legal
You may be able to fight the charges against you by showing that the arrest was not legal if the law enforcement officer did follow proper procedures, such as:
- Having a legitimate reason to pull you over at the beginning of the stop
- Using a video camera from the moment the officer stopped you
- Administering field sobriety tests properly
- Reading you the implied consent notice
- Reading you Miranda rights
You Were Not Impaired
If your BAC was below 0.08%, the prosecution must prove by proof beyond a reasonable doubt that your faculties were “materially and appreciably impaired.” So, even if law enforcement stops you after having a drink or two, you will not necessarily be convicted.
Video Evidence Establishes a Defense
As stated previously, South Carolina law requires law enforcement officers to videotape DUI stops unless exigent circumstances are present. The video must include the following:
- A reading of the implied consent warning
- Checking of your mouth
- Waiting 20 minutes
- Informing you that the breath test will be video recorded
- Administering the breath test
- Informing you that you can refuse the breath test
- A reading of the Miranda rights
If the law enforcement officer failed to video record all of these events, the case may be dismissed.
The Test Was Not Accurate
You may have other valid defenses regarding the validity of the test. For example, some of the following factors may combat the credibility of the test results:
- There was time between the arrest and the testing when your BAC may have been increasing
- The person who gave you the test or took your blood or urine samples was not qualified under South Carolina law
- The Breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated, was not working properly or was defective
- There was a break in the chain of custody of your test results
6. You May Still Be Able to Drive
Your driver's license can be suspended for 1 to 15 months for failing a breath test or refusing to take one in violation of the implied consent law. The length of your suspension depends on your offense and the number of previous DUI offenses you have been convicted of within the last ten years. However, you can request an administrative hearing to fight the loss of your driving privileges, which is a separate proceeding from your criminal case. If you win at the administrative hearing, your license suspension will end. You can apply for a Temporary Alcohol License while your administrative case is pending. If you do not win at the hearing, your suspension will resume.
An experienced lawyer may help you apply for a “route restricted license” that will allow you to drive during your period of suspension to certain vital locations like work and school.
If your license was suspended because you violated the implied consent law, you can choose to install an ignition interlock device and apply for an IID restricted license.
7. An Experienced Attorney Can Provide Critical Assistance for Your South Carolina DUI Case
If you have been charged with DUI, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney. Here at the Woods Law Firm, we have extensive knowledge of DUI laws and defenses. We are ready and able to protect your legal rights. With over 23 years of legal experience and three conveniently-located offices throughout the state, we can meet with you and discuss your case at your convenience. Our excellent staff and attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights and your freedom. If you need immediate help but don't know where to turn, trust the lawyers at the Woods Law Firm to quickly answer your questions and get to work immediately on your case. Call or text an attorney from our firm personally at (843) 999-1106 or schedule an appointment with our office staff at (864) 298-8111 or by completing the online contact form.