An Overview of DUI Penalties in South Carolina

When it comes to DUI offenses in South Carolina, consequences largely hinge on the number of prior DUIs within a decade. Let’s take a closer look at South Carolina’s DUI regulations and the repercussions for various convictions.

Understanding South Carolina’s DUI Legislation

South Carolina’s laws strictly prohibit driving:

  • With a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or above (.04% if in a commercial vehicle).
  • Under any drug’s influence or while intoxicated. Be aware that this can include a non-alcoholic substance – click here to learn more about how a driver might be charged with a DUI without ever consuming alcohol. 

“Under the influence” in South Carolina means one’s driving ability is notably compromised. Even if a driver feels unimpaired, a BAC of .08% or higher constitutes a “per se DUI” offense. Several factors can influence BAC, such as body size and alcohol type.

It’s worth noting that breathalyzer tests are far from definitive, as some studies have shown that the machines are not often calibrated and that they operate with significant margins of error.

First-time DUI Conviction Penalties

Consequences for a first DUI conviction in South Carolina vary based on BAC:

  1. BAC below .10%: Penalties include 48 hours to 30 days imprisonment, $400 fine, and six months’ license suspension.
  2. BAC between .10%-.16%: The offender risks seven to 30 days jail time, a fine of $500, and a six-month license suspension.
  3. BAC of .16% and above: This comes with 30 to 90 days of jail time, $1,000 fine, and a six-month suspension of driving privileges.

In some cases, first-time offenders can receive community service as an equivalent to jail time, but that depends on the severity of the infraction. Assuming the crime was not catastrophic in nature, it’s likely that this option would be made available for the initial conviction.

Consequences for Second DUI Conviction

For a second DUI offense:

  1. BAC below .10%: This incurs five days to a year in jail, fines ranging from $2,100 to $5,100, and a two-year requirement for an ignition interlock device (IID).
  2. BAC between .10%-.16%: Expect 30 days to two years in jail, $2,500 to $5,100 in fines, and a two-year IID mandate. BACs of .15% or more also result in a two-month license suspension.
  3. BAC of .16% or more: Here, penalties are 90 days to three years of imprisonment, fines between $3,500 and $6,500, a two-month license suspension, and two years of IID use.

Consequences for a Third DUI Conviction

A third DUI conviction in South Carolina entails:

  1. BAC below .10%: This leads to 60 days to three years jail time, $3,800 to $6,500 in fines, and three years with an IID
  2. BAC between .10%-.16%: Consequences are 90 days to four years of jail, fines between $5,000 and $7,500, and three years of IID use. A BAC of .15% or higher also incurs a three-month license suspension.
  3. BAC of .16% or above: Offenders face six months to five years imprisonment, $7,500 to $10,000 in fines, a three-year IID obligation, and a three-month license suspension.

Rehabilitation Mandate for DUI Offenders

Every DUI offender must partake in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, which includes mandatory drug and alcohol assessments and subsequent treatments. You’ll also be expected to participate in traffic courses to reeducate you on the importance of driving responsibly. As an unwritten component of the penalty, these courses are both mandatory and relatively expensive, which means that a DUI conviction can become costlier than you might initially expect.

Seek Legal Counsel

If arrested for DUI, consulting a seasoned DUI lawyer is crucial. They can evaluate your case and guide your next steps. Click here or call (800) 384-5297