The criminal penalties for a first time DUI in South Carolina aren't as harsh as they are for subsequent offenses. Still, the consequences can hurt your future. If convicted, you could pay hefty fines, spend time in jail, be forced to get special SR-22 insurance, lose driving privileges, and suffer a negative impact on your professional life and your personal life.
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), law enforcement officials made almost 22,000 drunk driving arrests in South Carolina in 2017 alone. This means that the Sheriff's Department, city police, and state troopers arrested over 60 people daily for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Many of those people had never been charged with a drunk driving offense or any other offense in the past. If you or a loved one were recently arrested for a DUI in Greenville or the surrounding areas, contact the skilled Greenville criminal defense attorneys at TF Law today at 864-618-2323.
What Happens When I Get My First DUI in South Carolina?
According to section 56-5-2930 of South Carolina DUI law, it's illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration level of o.08% or more.
It's unnecessary for anyone who has been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving to display the signs you would associate with a person who is under the influence. A chemical test shows a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or more can get you arrested for driving under the influence in South Carolina.
Also, it's essential to note that you could be arrested for intoxicated driving in South Carolina even if your blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08% just by showing signs that are consistent with a person who is intoxicated.
When a law enforcement officer stops you on suspicion of drunk driving in South Carolina, the police officer is already building a case against you by observing your driving behavior before initiating the DUI stop. If the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds and suspects that you're driving under the influence, he or she will request that you perform some field sobriety test. It's not mandatory under law to consent to the field sobriety tests. Thus, if a police officer requests you to take a field sobriety test, you can decline politely.
Law enforcement officials will then request that you submit to a breath test. Under South Carolina's Implied Consent law section 56-5-2950, you're required to submit to a chemical test. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, law enforcement officials must inform you of the additional penalties you may face for chemical test refusal and then ask you a second time if you'll submit to a chemical test. Refusal to submit to a chemical test can cause a minimum 6-month license suspension.
Upon being arrested for impaired driving in Greenville, South Carolina, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license and then issue you a “Notice of Suspension” that advises you about your legal right to an administrative hearing and to get a temporary license.
Within 30 days from the DUI arrest, you must get a provisional license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which will allow you to drive your vehicle unrestricted pending the outcome of your administrative hearing regarding your driver's license suspension.
If you don't request an administrative hearing within 30 days of your DUI arrest, your license suspension may be upheld and you may not request an administrative hearing after this period. It's essential to note that the administrative hearing process is tricky, and it really requires the expertise of an experienced Greenville DUI criminal lawyer who has experience representing DUI offenders at administrative hearings to have successful outcomes.
Related: Misdemeanor DUI in South Carolina
What is the Criminal Penalty for a 1st Offense DUI in Greenville, South Carolina?
A first-time offender in South Carolina may face the following criminal penalties:
Potential Jail Time
A first DUI conviction with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% to 0.10% may cause a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours up to a maximum prison sentence of 30 days. Instead of the minimum jail term, the criminal court may allow you to serve 48 hours of community service. A first DUI offense conviction with a breath alcohol concentration of 0.10%–0.16% may cause a minimum prison sentence of 72 hours or a maximum jail sentence of 30 days.
But instead of the minimum jail sentence, the criminal court may allow you to serve 72 hours of community service. A first DUI conviction with a blood alcohol level of 0.16% or more may cause a minimum jail term of 30 days or a maximum jail term of 90 days. Again, instead of the minimum jail sentence, the judge may allow you to serve 30 days of community service.
If you are granted community service, the term of service will range between 2 and 30 days based on your blood alcohol level at the time of the arrest.
A first DUI offense with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%–0.10% may lead to a fine of up to $400 plus court fees. A first-time DUI offense with a blood alcohol content of 0.10%– 0.16% may lead to a fine of up to $500 plus court fees. A first DUI offense with a breath alcohol concentration of 0.16% or more will lead to a fine of up to $1,000 plus court fees.
Substance Abuse Program
You might be required to attend a state-approved alcohol treatment program.
A first offense for chemical testing refusal may result in a 6-month license suspension.
Ignition interlock device
First-time DUI offenders who had a blood alcohol content of 0.15% or more will be required to install a breath alcohol ignition interlock device on their vehicle for 6 months. Depending on the details of your case, you may also be required to get a restricted driving permit.
Driver's License Suspension
Your driver's license will be suspended for a 6-month period for a first DUI offense. Your driver's license will be reinstated once you complete the required alcohol dependency treatment program, file proof of an SR-22 form that meets the state requirements, and pay the $100 reinstatement fee.
Contact an Experienced Greenville DUI Lawyer Today for Legal Advice!
The criminal penalties for impaired driving become harsher when the drunk driver causes grievous bodily injury or death. If you cause great bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may face imprisonment for 30 days to 15 years and a mandatory fine of $5,100 to $10,100. If you kill someone while driving while drunk, the prison sentence increases to 1 to 25 years, and the mandatory fine increases from $10,100 to $25,100. It's essential to note that this law applies to single-vehicle accidents where a passenger is injured, besides motor vehicle crashes involving other motor vehicles or pedestrians.
If you've been charged with DUI charges in Greenville, it's more crucial than ever before to have an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney in TF Law on your side. Having a DUI conviction on your criminal record can have major consequences in your life, including the hefty fines and jail sentences themselves. To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation, contact our Greenville law office today at 864-618-2323.