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DUI Laws in SC: Everything You Need To Know
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DUI Laws in SC: Everything You Need To Know

Nobody expects to get a DUI charge, but it happens. Something as simple as catching up with friends over drinks can turn into a complicated mess if you get pulled over on your way home.

SC law enforcement doesn’t care where you’re coming from or where you’re heading. Their job is to determine whether or not you are driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs, and if you are, arrest you on DUI charges.

Being charged with a DUI in SC can lead to serious complications in your daily life. Losing your driving privileges can interfere with work, social activities and errands. You’ll either need to get familiar with public transportation or find someone who doesn’t mind driving you around.

The inconvenience of being unable to drive seems small compared to the strain that a jail sentence can put on your relationships, and a criminal record can make life difficult even after you’ve served your time.

If you’ve never been charged with driving under the influence, you’re probably full of questions. For starters, will you lose your driver’s license? Will you go to jail? For how long?

Even if you have previous DUI convictions, a new charge brings a different set of questions about what happens next. For instance, how much worse will the penalties be this time around?

The best way to get all your questions answered is to talk to an experienced DUI lawyer. Plus, you have a better chance of beating your DUI charge if you have a defense attorney fighting for you.

Where should you start?

We’ve provided you with general information about DUI charges and DUI penalties in South Carolina.

Here is what we will be talking about below:

What is a DUI charge?

According to South Carolina law, driving under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol is illegal. You can be charged with DUI if your driving is impaired due to the presence of drugs and/or alcohol above the legal limit in your system.

There are two sides to DUI charges in South Carolina. The administrative side handles license suspension through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The criminal side goes through the court system and determines criminal penalties such as fines and jail time. They are separate, and unfortunately, you will have to deal with both sides.


South Carolina recognizes two separate offenses for for driving under the influence. While the penalties for the two charges are nearly identical, what the prosecution must prove for a conviction are different. For a DUAC, the prosecutor must prove the person was operating under the influence of alcohol with a concentration of .08 or higher. For a DUI conviction, the prosecution must only prove the person’s ability to drive was impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The suspensions for both charges are identical. The fines and jail time are the same for both. And both charges require SR-22 insurance and completion of the ADSAP program.

The Administrative Side of DUI

When you’re pulled over for a DUI, the police officer may confiscate your driver’s license on the spot. However, an administrative hearing could help you get your license back.

Driver’s License Suspension

A DUI conviction automatically leads to the suspension of your driver’s license. How long your license will be suspended depends on a few factors, such as prior license suspensions and your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest.

On top of that, South Carolina has an “Implied Consent Law.” What that means is that by driving in the state, you consent to a chemical test for drugs or alcohol if you get pulled over. The test is usually a breath test, but it could be a blood test or a urine test. Refusing to be tested will get you an automatic suspension which is then added to the suspension for a DUI conviction.

So how long could your license be suspended?

To give you an idea of how long you may lose your license, here are a few examples:

  • - If you refuse a Breathalyzer, your license is automatically suspended for 6 months
  • - For a 1st offense DUI with a BAC under .15%, your license can be suspended for 6 months
  • - For a 2nd offense DUI with a BAC under .15%, your license can be suspended for an indefinite period of time pending successful completion of the SC IID Program (See Below)
  • - For a 3rd offense DUI with a BAC under .15%, your license can be suspended for an indefinite period of time pending successful completion of the SC IID Program (See Below)
  • - For a 4th offense DUI with a BAC under .15% your license is suspended indefinitely pending successful completion of the SC IID Program (See Below)

The law concerning DUI’s and the penalties for DUI convictions changed within the last couple years. “Emma’s Law” took effect in 2014 and made the consequences of a DUI conviction worse if you have a BAC higher than .15%. One of the most important changes is to the Ignition Interlock Device Program. For more information on IIDs read this.

Administrative Hearings

When your license is suspended for refusal to consent to the breathalyzer, you’ll receive a blue Notice of Suspension. Then you’ll have 30 days to request an administrative hearing with the DMV. The purpose of the hearing is to challenge your suspension and try to get back your driving privileges.

To request a hearing, fill out the information on the back of the blue suspension form and send it to the South Carolina Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings, along with a check or money order for the $200 fee. Or, if you hire a DUI attorney, your lawyer’s office can assist you by requesting the hearing and appearing at the hearing on your behalf.

Temporary Alcohol Restricted Licenses (TARL)

Once you’ve requested a hearing, you should apply for a temporary alcohol restricted license (TARL) if you qualify through the DMV. This limited license gives you permission to drive within the state of South Carolina until your suspension hearing is held.

You may qualify for a TARL if this was your first DUI and you:

  • Had a SC driver’s license
  • Have no other suspensions
  • Enroll in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)
  • Pay the $100 provisional driver license fee

The TARL is effective until your administrative hearing. The hearing will determine whether your suspension continues or you get your regular license back.

The Criminal Side of DUI

The court system handles the criminal side of DUI cases. The penalties can include:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • License suspensions

It’s important to keep in mind that suspensions from the administrative side explained above are separate from criminal penalty license suspensions.

The state will look back 10 years from the date of your DUI charge to see if you have previous DUI convictions–even in another state. The specific details of your DUI case will determine how severe your penalties are if you’re convicted.

First offense DUI (misdemeanor)

If you are sentenced to the minimum jail sentence, there’s a chance you could serve that time through public service instead of jail time.

Jail time
License suspension
less than .10% $400 48 hours to 30 days 6 months
.10% to .15% $500 72 hours to 30 days 6 months
above .15% $1,000 30 days to 90 days Indefinite

Second offense DUI (misdemeanor)

Jail time
License suspension
less than .10% $2,100 to $5,100 5 days to 1 year Indefinite
.10% to .16% $2,500 to $5,500 30 days to 2 years Indefinite
.16% or greater $3,500 to $6,500 90 days to 3 years Indefinite

Third offense DUI (misdemeanor)

Jail time
License suspension
less than .10% $3,800 to $6,300 60 days to 3 years Indefinite
.10% to .16% $5,000 to $7,500 90 days to 4 years Indefinite
.16% or greater $7,500 to $10,000 6 months to 5 years Indefinite

*If your third conviction occurs within five years from the date of your first offense, your driver’s license will be suspended for four years.

Fourth or subsequent offense DUI (felony)

Jail time
License suspension
less than .10% 1 year to 5 years Indefinite
.10% to .16% 2 years to 6 years Indefinite
.16% or greater 3 years to 7 years Indefinite

Provisional Driver’s Licenses After Conviction

If you’re convicted of a DUI, you can apply to the DMV for a route restricted driver’s license. This license will be valid for the duration of your suspension. A route restricted license will allow you to drive between your home and certain approved locations, such as:

  • Work
  • School
  • Court-ordered drug program

You can only receive a route restricted license once in your lifetime. The requirements include:

  • License suspended for alcohol violation (BAC of .15%)
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien status
  • Complete application form DL-127
  • Pay $100 if application is approved

Other Penalties of DUI Conviction:

Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)

You will likely have to participate in ADSAP after a DUI conviction or an administrative license suspension due to a DUI charge. Doing so can help you get back your driver’s license.

You must provide proof of enrollment in ADSAP in order to get a provisional license from the DMV. And you need to have proof of completion of ADSAP in order for your driving privileges to be restored.

Ignition Interlock Device Program

An ignition interlock device is a gadget installed in your vehicle and attached to your vehicle’s dashboard. IIDs are designed to prevent you from driving while under the influence of alcohol.

How do ignition interlock devices work?

The way IIDs work is the driver must blow into the device, kind of like a Breathalyzer, before starting the car. The car won’t start if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is higher than the amount programmed in the IID.

The driver will also have to breathe into the IID at random times while driving. That’s to make sure the driver doesn’t have someone else blow into the IID in order to get their car started.

Who has to have an ignition interlock device?

First time offenders who blow over a .15% and anyone convicted of a DUI 2nd offense or greater including the following charges:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving with unlawful alcohol concentration
  • Causing great bodily injury or death while driving under the influence

IIDs are installed in personal vehicles, but not in commercial motor vehicles unless you own the business. That means that if you drive a company vehicle, you’ll only be permitted to drive it for work purposes.

Who has to pay for the ignition interlock device?

If you are required to have an IID, you will be required to pay for all of the costs associated with the device including installation. However, if you cannot afford it, you may be able to get the cost covered by the Interlock Device Fund. To do this you’ll have to provide an affidavit of indigency to the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole.

How long does the ignition interlock device have to be used?

You must use the IID for as long as your license would have been suspended. For a 1st offense DUI you are looking at a 6 month requirement. An ignition interlock device may be required for a longer period of time if you have a prior DUI offense. For a 2nd offense, an IID is required for 2 years. For a third offense, it’s three years. For a 4th or greater offense, the IID is required for life.

It is very important to understand that the Ignition Interlock Device requirements listed above must be successfully completed before your license can be reinstated. It isn’t simply a period of time that has to pass. You have to abide by the rules of the program for the entire period of time. Violations of the program will cause you to accumulate points against you and increase the amount of time you must use the ignition interlock device.

SR-22 Insurance Certification

After a DUI conviction, you must file an SR-22 certificate with the DMV to prove that you have the state-mandated amount of car insurance coverage. This form must be on file with the DMV before you can receive a provisional driver’s license or a reinstated license–even if you don’t own a vehicle.

How will a DUI conviction affect my insurance?

Insurance companies see drunk driving as reckless driving behavior since alcohol leads to impaired driving. High-risk driving equals higher insurance rates. Exactly how much your rates increase depends on the circumstances of your case. In general, if you have a DUI arrest on your driving record, then you can expect your car insurance premium to increase by a few hundred dollars.

South Carolina takes DUI offenses seriously. If you’ve been arrested for DUI, the state will prosecute you to the full extent of the law. The fallout from a DUI conviction could impact your life for years to come.

Would you like to discuss your DUI case?

If you have more questions, other concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me. If I can’t help you, I’ll try to refer you to someone who can.

Contact Lori Murray to set up a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case. Call 803-779-4472.

Ready to Speak with a DUI Lawyer?

Contact Lori Murray to discuss your situation.

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