In South Carolina, state laws impose strict penalties on drivers convicted of drunk driving. Those criminal penalties can include monetary fines, prison time, loss of driving privileges, and a court-imposed ignition interlock device (IID). That is a breathalyzer connected to your motor vehicle's ignition. Navigating the legal consequences of a drunk driving charge is confusing.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs offenses in Greenville or anywhere in South Carolina, seek legal representation right away from an experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer.
At TF Law, our criminal defense team is dedicated to defending those charged with felony and misdemeanor DUI offenses in South Carolina. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call our Greenville criminal defense law firm today at 864-618-2323.
What Counts as a DUI in Greenville, SC?
South Carolina law states that an individual is said to be driving under the influence f alcohol or drugs when their ability to drive is appreciably and materially impaired. It doesn’t matter whether the inability to drive is caused by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Also, it doesn’t matter whether the drugs were legally prescribed.
However, the following elements must be proven for you to be convicted with a DUI charge:
- If you were driving – believe it or not, some drunk driving criminal charges are dismissed because the individual wasn't “driving” at the time of the incident. You could be in your car listening to music, sleeping, or even passed out behind the wheel, but if the law enforcement officers can't prove that you were driving while impaired, you aren't guilty of driving under the influence. In 1977 the SC Supreme Court overturned a conviction in State v Graves because even though the defendant was found sleeping in a car with the engine running the vehicle was not moving.
- The next element is your “faculties to drive” were appreciably or materially impaired. This can be proven with your blood test or breathalyzer result, testimony from the arresting officer, statements from other witnesses, or video of your performance on the roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs).
However, your DUI criminal defense attorney can contest the breathalyzer results, cross-examine the police officer to show there was bias, explain the cause of your poor performance on the field sobriety tests, or bring out positive details that prove you weren't driving while intoxicated, or call “sobriety witnesses” who can testify to your ability to operate a motor vehicle at the time of the incident.
What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor DUI and a Felony DUI?
In South Carolina, the late enforcement officers can charge you with a DUI charge based on probable cause you were operating a motor vehicle while appreciably and materially appreciably impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. You can be charged with a drunk driving criminal offense if a chemical test shows that your blood alcohol concentration was 0.08 or more. The criminal penalties for both criminal offenses are the same.
In South Carolina, a DUI is often a misdemeanor offense. However, the criminal offense can become a felony in the following circumstances:
- Personal injury or death. If a drunk driver causes great physical injury or death, they can be charged with a felony DUI offense. Great bodily injury refers to any injury that carries a substantial risk of a fatality or which leaves the victim with permanent disfigurement, a prolonged period of disability, amputation, or loss of bodily functions.
- Subsequent DUI offenses. In South Carolina, the third DUI offense is automatically charged as a felony offense.
- A DUI offense with minors in the vehicle. If a person is arrested for intoxicated driving while transporting children in the vehicle, this may elevate their offense to a felony charge. For example, driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 16 years in your vehicle is charged as felony child endangerment.
Related: First Time DUI in South Carolina
What Is the Legal Limit in Greenville, SC?
There is no “legal limit” for driving under the influence in South Carolina because the State must prove that you were driving while appreciably and materially impaired, as opposed to what your blood alcohol level was at the time of the DUI arrest. Again, your blood alcohol content can prove impairment.
South Carolina DUI law provides for “deductions” based on the blood test or breathalyzer results, however:
- If your blood alcohol content was 0.05 or less, it's assumed that you weren't under the influence of alcohol, although the prosecutor may also claim you were on drugs;
- If your blood alcohol concentration was higher than 0.05 but lower than 0.08, there's no deduction whether you were intoxicated; and
- If your blood alcohol level was 0.08 or more, the criminal court will tell the jury that they can presume that you were impaired, although you can still challenge the State’s evidence and present your evidence proving your sobriety.
What is the Sentence for Felony DUI Offense in South Carolina?
The legislature in South Carolina and in the United States enacts criminal laws and potential punishments. Applying these criminal laws, judges must sentence those who pleaded guilty to a criminal offense or who are found guilty by a jury at a court trial.
When enacting punishments for criminal offenses, the key factor in the legislature is the severity of the offense. The level of seriousness can stem from the consideration of the degree of injury to the victim of a criminal offense. Unlike a misdemeanor DUI offense, the punishment for a felony DUI offense is elevated if the DUI offender is convicted of causing severe bodily injury to a victim or their death. The punishment is significantly enhanced.
If a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of a Felony DUI, the judge must then determine the right punishment. Although a state court isn't required to disclose how it establishes what sentence to impose, many factors influence this decision. Courts consider an individual's arrest and conviction record if any, their post-arrest rehabilitation efforts, the evidence your Greenville criminal attorney presents in mitigation, and victim impact.
For a Felony DUI, potential sentences are a range of prison time. These ranges of prison sentences apply to both types of Felony DUIs, death and serious bodily injury. Often, they differ because one offense is based on injury and the other on death.
Contact Our Experienced Greenville DUI Criminal Defense Attorneys Today for Legal Advice!
If you're facing jail time, your DUI criminal defense attorney can play a crucial role in reducing the amount of prison time you serve or, sometimes, an experienced can help you avoid prison altogether. Thus, after a DUI arrest, it's essential to contact an experienced DUI lawyer in Greenville as soon as possible. If you’re facing a drunk driving charge in South Carolina, contact the DUI criminal defense attorneys at TF Law today at 864-618-2323 to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.