Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can land you in serious trouble. If you drive while impaired and cause the death or serious bodily injury of another, you will face even more severe penalties with the step up to a felony charge. If you are being charged with a felony DUI in South Carolina, call TF Law today.
We work with clients throughout the Upstate to reach the best possible solution for their case, and help them handle the license suspension that comes with the DUI charge. Contact us to see how we can help you.
What Constitutes a Felony DUI in South Carolina?
Several factors can increase a DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony charge in South Carolina:
Great Bodily Injury or Death
Under South Carolina Law, a drunk driver who causes the death or great bodily injury of another person has committed a felony. The state defines "great bodily injury" as an injury that is life-threatening, has caused permanent disfigurement, or results in the loss or impairment of the function of an organ or bodily function. This charge can assign a mandatory prison sentence of between 30 days and 15 years, and a possible fine of between $5,000 and $10,000.
A Minor Passenger
A driver operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, with a passenger under the age of 16, may be charged with child endangerment in addition to the DUI charge. This will become a felony charge automatically if the minor is killed or seriously injured. State law sets the potential penalties for the charge at imprisonment of up to half the time of the DUI charge and a fine of up to half the maximum fine of the DUI.
Third Time Offense
The State of South Carolina will charge a third time DUI offense as a felony. South Carolina automatically categorizes a person's third DUI offense as a felony. Penalties for a third time conviction can include up to 3 years in prison with fines of up to $12,000 if the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of under 0.10. Higher levels of unlawful alcohol concentration may result in more severe penalties.
Penalties for a Felony DUI
Drivers convicted of a felony DUI may face administrative penalties in addition to criminal charges. These can vary depending on individual circumstances, but an example of such a penalty is license suspension. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles may issue a license suspension of as long as 6 months to revoke the driving privileges of a first time DUI offense. A subsequent offense will result in an indefinite license suspension for the driver.
South Carolina law provides sentencing guidelines for felony DUI charges by establishing a range of prison time. The penalties for a conviction will differ depending on whether the DUI resulted in serious bodily injury or death.
For cases involving serious bodily injury, the law dictates jail time ranging from a minimum sentence of 30 days to a maximum of 15 years in addition to a fine of between $5,000 and $10,000. In addition to the prison time and fine, the South Carolina DMV will suspend the driver's license for 3 years beyond the incarceration period and require the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on the driver's vehicle before the suspension is lifted.
In the event of a DUI resulting in death, state law establishes mandatory imprisonment with a minimum sentence of 1 year and a maximum of 25. It also sets a range for a fine with a minimum payment of $10,000 and a maximum of $25,000. The driver will not be eligible for parole in these circumstances. The individual's license will be suspended for the entire incarceration period plus 5 additional years, and they will be required to install an IID on their vehicle.
In addition to facing penalties from the state, a driver convicted of a DUI will face penalties from insurance companies, most commonly in the form of higher insurance premiums. The driver may also need an SR-22 insurance certificate to get their license reinstated at the end of the suspension period.
A felony conviction will be listed on an individual's criminal record, which can create issues with finding housing and employment.
Facing DUI charges, and particularly felony charges can have massive repercussions. If you find yourself in that position the best thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to begin building a compelling defense for your case.
How Do You Defend Against Felony DUI Charges?
Felony DUI cases can quickly become difficult to defend against. The prosecution will often seek more evidence for a felony case than a municipal or magistrate-level DUI. This can include witnesses to testify to impaired driving, bank or credit card statements to show charges at a bar or restaurant, or bar receipts or other evidence of drinking recovered by law enforcement officers.
The best thing you can do to help your case is to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A skilled DUI lawyer may be able to prevent the admission of evidence such as breath or blood samples or demonstrate through medical records that the injuries sustained do not reach the level necessary to qualify a felony case. Hiring a defense attorney quickly will give them more time to build effective defenses for your case and give you the best chance in court.
Related: What to do After a DUI in Greenville
Hire a DUI Attorney in South Carolina
DUI's, and especially felony DUI charges, can put your entire future in jeopardy. Don't leave anything up to chance, hire an experienced DUI attorney for your case.
If you have been charged with a felony DUI in upstate SC contact the team of Greenville criminal defense attorneys at TF Law. We have the knowledge, experience, and dedication to see your case through and get you the best possible outcome for your specific situation. Schedule an appointment with our online form or over the phone to see what we can do for you.