Most likely you've heard the term “legal limit” before, especially if you’ve faced a drunk driving case. Drunk driving is also known as driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) or driving under the influence (DUI). In Greenville, South Carolina, it's illegal to drive a motor vehicle while drunk and this is a punishable criminal offense as per South Carolina laws. Thus, it’s crucial to know about alcohol-impaired driving laws in South Carolina. Also, it's essential to understand the conditions in which subject a drunk driver may be penalized and the criminal penalties for various degrees of criminal convictions for intoxicated driving.
If you’re facing DUAC or DUI criminal charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Even a 0.01 percent difference in your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can mean the difference between your DUI charges being dismissed and a DUI conviction.
The criminal defense team at TF Law has helped many DUI offenders in Greenville and throughout South Carolina get a positive outcome and we can help you, too. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our experienced Greenville criminal defense lawyers today at 864-618-2323.
What is the Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, it's unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol if your ability to drive is appreciably and materially impaired. If you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, the arresting law enforcement officer assumes you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you have a blood alcohol content that is higher than 0.05% but less than 0.08%, your blood alcohol level is considered and other evidence such as a failed field sobriety test.
South Carolina DUI laws prohibit driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. Unlike driving under influence, under the "per se" DUAC statute, no evidence of "intoxication" is necessary for a criminal conviction.
Under South Carolina DUI law, drivers in the state are presumed to have given consent for testing of blood, breath, or urine to detect the presence of alcohol or drugs. Refusal of BAC testing means you could face a six-month driver's license suspension period. If you have a previous alcohol-related conviction or driver's license suspension within the last ten years, you may receive a 9-month suspension period.
Related Content: What to Do After a DUI in Greenville
According to South Carolina drunk driving laws, it's illegal for persons under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.02%. Under South Carolina's "zero tolerance" law, persons under the age of 21 who drive with a blood alcohol content above 0.02% will face an automatic license suspension for three months or six months if they have a previous alcohol-related conviction or license suspension in the last five years. If an underage driver refuses to consent to blood alcohol content testing, their driver's license is suspended automatically for six months, or one year if they have a previous DUI conviction or license suspension in the last five years.
What are the Criminal Penalties for DUI in South Carolina?
Criminal penalties increase in drunk driving cases if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI arrest, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than or equal to 0.10, or if fatal crashes occur because of the DUI offense. Other criminal penalties for alcohol-impaired driving, such as completion of a drug and alcohol evaluation program, license suspension, or the installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
If this is your first DUI offense, the criminal penalties you may face are directly related to the blood alcohol level found in your breathalyzer test results:
- Blood alcohol level measures between 0.08% and 0.15% result in a monetary fine of $500 excluding court costs, up to 72 hours of community service, and sometimes, and a minimum sentence of 3 to 30 days in jail;
- A blood alcohol content of 0.16 or higher results in a hefty fine of $1,000 besides court costs, up to 30 days of community service, and a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.
If you're charged with a second DUI offense after a previous DUI conviction, you may face the following criminal penalties:
- Second-time DUI conviction within 10 years of first DUI conviction results in a monetary fine ranging between $2,100 and $5,100 excluding court costs, and prison sentence ranging between 5 days to one year in prison.
- A blood alcohol concentration level between 0.10 and 0.15 leads to a hefty fine ranging between $2,100 and $5,100, plus court fees, and a jail sentence ranging between 30 days and two years in prison
- A blood alcohol concentration measure of 0.16 or more leads to a monetary fine ranging between $3,500 and $6,300 in fines, plus court costs, and a minimum jail sentence of 90 days to three years in prison
- One year of license suspension
- Court-ordered completion of drug and alcohol treatment program.
- Mandatory installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device for two years
If this is your third DUI offense, your criminal penalties may include:
- A third drunk driving conviction within 10 years of the first DUI conviction causes a fine ranging between $3,800 and $6,300, plus court fees, and a jail sentence ranging between 60 days and three years in prison
- Blood alcohol levels between 0.10 and 0.15 result in a heavy fine varying between $5,000 to $7,500, plus court fees, and a prison sentence ranging between 90 days and four years in prison
- A blood alcohol content of 0.16 and more results in a fine between $7,500 to $10,000, plus court fees, and a jail sentence ranging between six months and five years in prison
- Court-ordered completion of a drug and alcohol treatment program
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for a time period of three years.
In South Carolina, a commission of four DUI criminal offenses within a 10-year period is a felony DUI offense. Criminal penalties for subsequent offenses include imprisonment for up to seven years and an automatic license suspension.
Is Driving Under Influence a Felony in South Carolina?
An impaired driving offense is a serious offense in South Carolina. Depending on several factors, the offense might be a misdemeanor or a felony. The level of the impaired driving offense, ultimately, determines the potential consequences alcohol-impaired drivers will face if convicted.
In South Carolina, the police officers can arrest you for intoxicated driving based on probable cause you were driving while appreciably and materially impaired by drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both. You can be charged with a DUAC charge if a chemical test shows that your blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08 or higher. The criminal penalties for both DUI and DUAC offenses are the same.
Typically, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a misdemeanor offense. However, the offense may become a felony offense if:
- Bodily injury or death is involved. If an intoxicated driver causes great bodily injury or death, they can be charged with a felony offense. Great bodily harm is any physical that leaves a victim with substantial physical disfigurement or an injury that carries a significant risk of a fatality or causes amputation and loss of bodily functions.
- Subsequent DUI offenses. In South Carolina, a third DUI offense for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is automatically be charged as a felony offense.
- Minors in the motor vehicle. Finally, if a drunk driver is arrested while transporting a minor in their car; this may elevate their DUI charge to a felony charge. For example, drunk driving with a child under the age of 16 in your vehicle is typically charged as felony child endangerment.
Is a DUI Criminal Defense Lawyer Worth It?
A DUI criminal defense attorney can get your DUI charges reduced or dismissed, so it’s essential to speak with an experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer to discuss the details of your DUI case and discuss your legal options. If you’re convicted of impaired driving in South Carolina, a DUI conviction can have a negative impact on your life. Even if it’s your first DUI offense, it can result in hefty fines, a six-month license suspension period of time, and other severe DUI penalties. Those legal consequences escalate with subsequent DUI offenses. You may have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle or even have your driver's license suspended or revoked.
If you get convicted of a DUI, having a public criminal record can create cause life-threatening challenges in your life. It could affect your ability to secure a loan, find a job, and secure housing. Thus, it’s critical to have a legal advocate in your corner who understands the significance of your DUI case. The experienced Greenville DUI defense attorneys at TF Law will fiercely fight for your constitutional rights and serve as powerful advocates who are dedicated to getting a positive outcome.
Call Our Greenville Criminal Defense Law Firm Today for a Free Legal Consultation
A DUI conviction can change your life, affecting potential future employment, increasing insurance rates, and affecting your reputation among your peers. A drunk driving charge is a serious offense that requires aggressive and well-planned criminal defense. It's crucial that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible for legal representation. Contact our skilled Greenville DUI criminal defense attorneys today at 864-618-2323 for a free, no-obligation consultation.