In South Carolina, you can be charged with either a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or a DUAC (driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration) if you have a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. The two are very similar, but not quite the same.
- A DUI charge implies that your ability to drive was impaired
- A DUAC charge removes impairment as a factor and hinges entirely on your blood alcohol concentration
If you have been charged with a DUI or DUAC you may be unsure of what to do next. You may be unsure if there is a legitimate defense strategy, particularly against DUAC charges.
Remember that a DUAC is a charge just as serious as a DUI, and includes serious criminal penalties. It is not eligible to be expunged from your permanent record. A conviction will see you facing fines, possible jail time, suspension or permanent revocation of your driver's license, mandatory attendance of an alcohol and drug safety action program, higher insurance premiums, and even the installation of an ignition interlock device.
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced attorney. They will be able to help you find the best path forward for your case, navigate your administrative penalties such as license suspension, and build a strong defense if your case goes to trial. Contact a qualified attorney at Touma & Fedalei for a free case consultation and find out how we can help you face your drunk driving charges.
DUI or DUAC, What's the Difference?
Most people, and even many inexperienced lawyers, may not fully understand the difference between a DUI vs DUAC. DUAC is not a lesser offense or a reduced DUI, it only makes charging a drunk driving incident easier.
A DUAC is a misdemeanor offense, and in order to convict you the State must provide evidence that you were:
- Operating a motor vehicle
- Under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Over the legal limit, with a BAC of 0.08 or higher
All three of these points must be proven, but notice that there is no requirement to show that you were involved in unsafe or reckless driving.
For a DUI, which is also charged as a misdemeanor offense, the State must show evidence of impairment in addition to the same requirements as a DUI, meaning they must show that you were:
- "Materially and appreciably impaired", to the point that you are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle
This means that for a drunk driving offense, the State often has an alternative to convict you should your case go to trial.
To build your defense for either a DUI or DUAC charge we will evaluate every aspect of your case. Common areas to target for the defense are the legality of the initial stop, the accuracy of field sobriety tests, and the science surrounding the breathalyzer machine. The most common tool used to fight drunk driving charges is still video issues. Violations of the state video statute trump even BAC levels, making them an invaluable weapon for a DUI lawyer.
What Qualifies as Legally Impaired?
A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher qualifies you as being legally impaired. The State can still prosecute a DUI when your BAC is lower than 0.08, but the prosecutor must be able to show "material and appreciable impairment." In this case, a DUAC is not a valid charge, but a DUI would be so long as the State can provide evidence that you were an impaired driver.
At Touma & Fedalei we work on both DUI and DUAC cases, and we are ready to mount an aggressive defense for either situation. We will guide you through your case in full, answer any questions you have as they arise, and make recommendations for the best path available to you.
Either charge will result in a mark on your criminal record, which provides extra incentive to fight them. Additionally, both DUAC and DUI charges carry the same penalties. The 1st offense without an accident will result in fines, a court-ordered drug program, and SR-22 insurance in addition to a suspension of your driving privileges for 6 months. A subsequent arrest and conviction will carry more severe penalties including heavier fines and a possible jail sentence.
Should I Plead Guilty to a DUAC in South Carolina?
Prosecutors will often offer the chance to plead guilty to a DUAC in exchange for dismissing a DUI charge. For someone unfamiliar with DUI law this may seem like a great deal that allows them to avoid more severe penalties, but as we have discussed in this article the penalties between a DUAC and a DUI are virtually the same. If a prosecutor is offering you a plea bargain in your DUI or DUAC case it is nearly always in your best interest to consult with an attorney before accepting it to be certain it plays to your benefit.
Can You Successfully Defend a DUAC Case?
Yes, these cases can be successfully defended and in some cases, evidence can be suppressed.
As an example, if law enforcement officials did not have probable cause to pull you over in the first place.
This can commonly be applied to DUI roadblocks or checkpoints and field sobriety tests administered at them. With no probable cause to pull you over, any evidence collected after the fact may be suppressed during your trial. South Carolina drivers cannot be charged with a DUAC after failing a test at a DUI roadblock due to a lack of probable cause. Breathalyzer tests or field sobriety tests can be challenged on a wide number of different grounds.
At Touma & Fedalei, our DUI lawyers will take action against DUI / DUAC arrests throughout Greenville County. If you have been charged with a drunk driving offense in or around Greenville you should consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys. Our legal knowledge and skill can help you avoid severe consequences and even criminal convictions for drunk driving.
Emma's Law and Ignition Interlock Devices
Emma's Law was passed in 2014 as a way to increase the consequences of drunk driving convictions. It applies equally to first-time DUI convictions and multiple offenders and could result in the installation of an ignition interlock device. The installation alone costs $1,000, with monthly fees of up to $130 for monitoring and other expenses.
First-time offenders who receive a conviction with a BAC of 0.15 or higher will be required to use the ignition interlock device for sixth months after their conviction. This adds further embarrassment, inconvenience, and expense to the penalties you are already facing for your charges.
Learn More: What to do After a DUI Arrest
Hire an Experienced Lawyer in Greenville
If you are facing a charge for drunk driving you will need the help of an experienced defense attorney familiar with DUI / DUAC law. These are criminal offenses carrying administrative penalties including a period of suspension of your driving privileges, and a heightened insurance rate. For legal advice to help you navigate your DUI or DUAC case contact an attorney at Touma & Fedalei.