Summary of South Carolina DUI Law

So the unthinkable happens and you get arrested for a DUI. This happens to people of all walks of life, not just “criminals.” A fun night with friends can turn into a not-so-fun night with extreme complications for your wallet, license, job, etc. There is a lot of information available on DUIs on the internet, but I wanted to compile some of the information in a format that could be easily understood. With that being said, this information can be complex and takes years to get a full understanding of the ins and outs of the DUI process. This article is meant to give you some insight, and is certainly designed to be informative, but it does not take into account every circumstance, such as CDL’s, etc. Therefore, anytime someone is charged with a criminal offense, especially DUI, I recommend consulting with a local attorney who handles DUI cases.

Understand that in most DUI cases, there are two parts. Part 1 is the possible implied consent suspension and subsequent administrative hearing that is available to contest the suspension. Part 1 involves cases where there was a refusal to provide a breath sample or a sample was provided that was a BAC of .15% or greater. Part 2 is the criminal proceeding related to the actual charge for either DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DUAC (Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration).

Part 1 – The License Suspension and Administrative Hearing

License Suspension: The South Carolina implied consent law says, “a person who drives a motor vehicle in this State is considered to have given consent to chemical tests of his breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or drugs or the combination of alcohol and drugs if arrested for an offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.” SC Code 56-5-2950.

Pursuant to this implied consent law, your South Carolina license will be suspended from 1 to 15 months for failing or refusing a Datamaster (breath) test. The duration of the suspension depends on whether you submit to the breath test, refuse the breath test, and the number of prior DUI offenses on your driver’s record within the past 10 years.

Refusal to Submit to Datamaster: Refusing to blow will result in the suspension of your license for a period of 6 to 15 months, depending on the number of prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years.

Submitting to Datamaster: If you do choose to blow into the Datamaster, your license will be suspended only if your BAC is .15% or more.

The chart below gives the information on period of suspension.

Number of Priors in Past 10 years
BAC of = or More than .15%
Refusal
None 1 month 6 Months
1 2 months 9 months
2 3 months 12 months
3 4 months 15 months

If your license is suspended for refusing to blow or providing a sample with a BAC of .15 or greater, there are certain administrative procedures that can get you back on the road. On the back of the suspension form, a person may request an administrative hearing for a fee of $200. Once the hearing is requested and processed, the person can apply for a Temporary Alcohol License (TAL) by paying yet another $100 with the DMV. Up until the time of the administrative hearing, the TAL will allow the person to drive unrestricted, and the suspension will be held pending the outcome of the administrative hearing.

If you are successful at the administrative hearing, the suspension ends once the administrative hearing officer issues his or her order. If you are unsuccessful, the suspension will go back into effect if you obtained a TAL. Alternatively, you can apply for a “route restricted license” which will allow you to drive throughout the remainder of the suspension, but only to certain places like work, college, etc. If you simply let the suspension run its course, you must enroll in ADSAP and pay $100 to the DMV as a reinstatement fee to have your license reissued.

As of October 1, 2014, someone who has their license suspended for an implied consent violation may elect to install an ignition interlock device (IID) and obtain an IID restricted license. See below.

PART II – The Criminal Offense

DUI. The South Carolina DUI law states:

    “It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person's faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person's faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person's faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.” Section 56-5-2930.

(DUAC). South Carolina has also enacted a statute that makes it illegal to drive a motor vehicle in this state “while [a person’s] alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more.” Being “impaired” is not an element to DUAC, meaning that you may still be perfectly capable of driving, however, you are guilty of DUAC if you BAC is .08% or more. Section 56-5-2933.

Convictions for DUI and DUAC come with the same sentencing penalties. The state looks back 10 years from the date of offense to determine whether you have a “prior” DUI / DUAC conviction. 56-5-2930(D), 56-5-2933(D). Remember also, that a conviction for DUI has license implications independent of any suspension related to the implied consent statute above. This means if you refuse a Datamaster test and ultimately get convicted of a DUI, you would be facing a 1 year (6 months for refusal and 6 months for conviction) suspension. The license suspensions for a conviction are at the right of the chart below.

The chart below outlines the Penalties for both DUI and DUAC

Charge
BAC
Penalty
License Suspension
ADSAP Required for any Suspension

DUI / DUAC

1st Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC < .10% $400 fine or at least 48 hours to 30 days jail (48 hour minimum may be served via public service) 6 Months

DUI / DUAC

1st Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC .10 - .15% $500 fine or at least 72 hours to 30 days jail (72 hour minimum may be served via public service)

.10 - .14% * 6 months

For .15% or more, see next row.

DUI / DUAC

1st Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC > .15%

$1000 fine or at least 30 to 90 days jail (30 days minimum may be served via public service)

Mandatory IID for 6 successful months to get license back

.15% inclusive *

Indefinite (must get IID for 6 months)

DUI / DUAC

2nd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC < .10% $2100 to $5100 fine AND 5 days to 1 year jail (may be susp to no less than $1100)

Indefinite

IID Required for 2 years.

DUI / DUAC

2nd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC .10 - .15% $2500 to $5500 fine AND 30 days to 2 years jail (may be susp to no less than $1100)

Indefinite

IID Required for 2 years.

DUI / DUAC

2nd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC > .15%

$3500 to $6500 fine AND 90 days to 3 years jail (may be susp to no less than $1100)

Mandatory IID for 6 successful months to get license back

Indefinite

IID Required for 2 years.

DUI / DUAC

3rd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC < .10% $3800 to $6300 fine AND 60 days to 3 years jail

Indefinite

IID Required for 3** years

DUI / DUAC

3rd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC .10 - .15% $5000 to $7500 fine AND 90 days to 4 years jail

Indefinite

IID Required for 3** years

DUI / DUAC

3rd Offense

(misdemeanor)

BAC > .15% $7500 to $10,000 fine AND 6 months to 5 years jail

Mandatory IID for 6 successful months to get license back

Indefinite

IID Required for 3** years

DUI / DUAC

4th or Subsequent

(felony)

BAC < .10% 1-5 year incarceration

Indefinite

IID Required for Life

DUI / DUAC

4th or Subsequent

(felony)

BAC .10 - .15% 2-6 years incarceration

Indefinite

IID Required for Life

DUI / DUAC

4th or Subsequent

(felony)

BAC > .15%

3-7 years incarceration

Mandatory IID for 6 successful months to get license back

Indefinite

IID Required for Life

*Note that BAC range for penalties and suspension do not align exactly.

**If the third conviction occurs within five years from the date of the first offense, then the IID period is four years.

Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) and Ignition Interlock Restricted Licenses:

New legislation called “Emma’s Law” changed many things about the way South Carolina handles DUI convictions. The most notable changes are to the Ignition Interlock requirements. There is also a new point system associated with the Ignition Interlock Device program. It is not an easy to understand system, so if you have questions about this point system please contact me. The new law increases the burdens for DUI convictions requiring IID in some circumstances, but also enables drivers to continue driving with an IID instead of suffering through a suspension.

If you choose to do the IID, you cannot go back and forth. The statute specifically says, “once a person has enrolled in the Ignition Interlock Device Program and obtained an ignition interlock restricted license, the person is subject to Section 56-5-2941 and cannot subsequently choose to serve the suspension.” In other words, if IID doesn’t work out, you cannot simply turn it in and undergo the suspension period.

If you are convicted of DUI and you blew .15% or higher:

You are REQUIRED to install an IID in your vehicle. You must also be issued an Ignition Interlock Restricted License. In order to get your license back EVER you have to successfully complete 6 months or more with the IID. You cannot wait out this 6 month period without installing the IID. This means that if you choose to do nothing for 2 years and then want to get your license back, you then have to complete 6 successful months with the IID along with any ADSAP requirements.

If you are convicted of DUI and you blew between .08% and .14%:

First-time offenders with a BAC of 0.08% to 0.14% who have their licenses suspended may choose to use an IID instead of a license suspension. If you are convicted of a 2nd or subsequent DUI with a 0.08% BAC or higher, the interlock device has to be used for at least two years.

If you are convicted of DUI and refused a Breathalyzer:

Your license will be suspended for 6 months, but you are NOT required to install an IID in your vehicle or get an Ignition Interlock Restricted License. In this scenario you can wait out the 6 month period without completing 6 months of IID. However, if you want to get back on the road without waiting, there is no way around the IID and Ignition Interlock Restricted License.

Provisional Licenses

In the event you are convicted of a DUI, or DUAC, your license to drive will be suspended for at least 6 months. However, after a conviction, you may apply for a provisional license if you blew under .15%. Please note that this is different from a Route Restricted License, an Ignition Interlock Restricted License, and others. To be eligible for a provisional license, you must:

  • 1. Not have refused a Breathalyzer (if so, you need an IID and an Ignition Interlock Restricted License, not a Provisional License)
  • 2. Not have blown over a .15% (if so, you need an IID and an Ignition Interlock Restricted License, not a Provisional License)
  • 3. Have or have had a valid driver license
  • 4. Have no other suspensions - except for an implied consent suspension resulting from the same incident
  • 5. Be enrolled in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP);
  • 6. Pay the $100.00 fee.

Charged with DUI in South Carolina?

As a Charleston Area DUI Lawyer, our firm represents clients charged with DUI cases. If you are looking for an attorney to represent you, don't wait to contact us.

Previous Article How Much Jail Time Can I Get for a Drug Charge in South Carolina
Next Article What goes into a Prosecutor’s Recommendation?
Print
20700 Rate this article:
3.6

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x

Let's Talk About Your Situation at No Cost To You.

There are many unknowns, and you need someone you can trust.

Contact Me
I Serve Charleston & Surrounding Areas
Russell D. Hilton, Attorney at Law, LLC is located in Summerville, SC.  We serve areas in South Carolina (SC), Berkeley County , Dorchester County , Charleston County , North Charleston, Goose Creek , Summerville, Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, Moncks Corner, Hanahan, Walterboro, St. George , Colleton County, Orangeburg County, Santee, Holly Hill, Eutawville, and surrounding areas. We provide representation for criminal law, dui defense, juvenile defense drug charges , civil litigation, landlord tenant, business law , personal injury law , real estate transactions, accidents , and general law.