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Penalties for a DUI in South Carolina

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As human beings, it's easy to make poor decisions at the moment without thinking of potential consequences. Unfortunately, this can be especially true when it comes to getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. DUI in South Carolina can have serious penalties, even for a first time offense.

Driving under the influence can result in accidents, injuries, and fatalities. It can also lead to legal troubles and financial consequences. Knowing the potential penalties for DUI in South Carolina is essential to make wise decisions and protecting yourself from serious legal troubles. For help with a DUI charge, our experienced defense attorneys can help. Call us today at 864-618-2323.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Limits

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one-third of all traffic fatalities are related to DUI. The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) while operating a motor vehicle in South Carolina is 0.08%. If your BAC is above this amount, you will be considered to have an unlawful alcohol concentration and can be arrested for a DUI.

The latest analysis of DUI rates within the United States reveals that South Carolina is among the top ten worst states for drunk driving. According to the study, an alarming 289.6 drivers per 100,000 licensed drivers in South Carolina were given a DUI in 2020.

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This statistic is further compounded by the fact that 29.6% of all deaths in the state were attributed to drunk driving-related accidents. Such high DUI rates, along with the significant number of fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

This means that if you are caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit, you can be charged with a DUI. Additionally, if you are under the age of 21, the legal limit is lower at 0.02%. Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.04%. This means that even if your BAC is lower than the legal limit, you can still be arrested for driving while impaired.

Causes of DUI

The influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both impairs one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The presence of alcohol in any amount may lead to a violation of the state’s drunk driving laws, regardless of whether it is your first offense or a subsequent offense.

Also, for drivers who are 21 and older, a “container violation” includes having an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment (or luggage compartment) of a motor vehicle. Essentially, any container violation, such as open containers in the car or an empty alcohol container, can lead to a DUI charge. This means that even if you do not have an unlawful alcohol concentration, you can still be charged with a DUI.

Potential Penalties after a DUI Conviction

The potential penalties after a DUI conviction varies depending on the circumstances of the offense. From license suspension, jail time, and heavy fines to mandatory drug and alcohol treatment courses, the consequences of a DUI can be severe. These are the common consequences of a DUI in South Carolina:

License Suspension or Revocation

License suspension/revocation means that the state revokes or suspends your driver’s license for a certain period of time, depending on your particular circumstances. In addition to criminal penalties, a DUI conviction can also lead to the suspension or revocation of your driver's license.

The length of the suspension or revocation period varies depending on the number of previous convictions and the blood alcohol concentration level at the time of the offense. First-time DUI offenders can face a six-month suspension, while subsequent offenders may face a one-year or lifetime suspension.

Jail Time

Jail time/Prison sentence means that you will be ordered to serve a certain amount of time in jail or prison for the offense. The amount of jail time or prison sentence you could face after a DUI conviction depends on the severity of the offense and your criminal history. If your offense caused bodily harm or death, you could face a felony charge and mandatory minimum jail time.

A felony DUI can result in a prison sentence of 1-5 years, while a second or subsequent offense can result in 3-7 years or longer. But for miscellaneous DUI offenses, the jail time may only range from 48 hours to 60 days.


You may also be required to pay fines for a DUI in South Carolina. Fines range from $400-$1,000 for first-time offenders, and up to $10,000 for third or subsequent offenses. Additionally, you can face additional fines if the offense caused bodily harm or death.

Ignition Interlock Device Installation

When you are convicted of a DUI, the court may require that you install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. This device measures the amount of alcohol present in your blood through breath samples. This device requires you to blow into a breathalyzer before starting your car, and it will not start if your BAC is above a certain level.

a blurry photo from the interior of a car driving to simulate the affects of alcohol when driving

Simply put, If your BAC is above a certain limit, the vehicle will not start. But note that the installation and monitoring of IIDs are regulated by the state, and an installation fee may be required. The device also requires periodic testing while driving to ensure that you remain sober. This means that you must provide breath samples at random intervals while driving.

Community Service Requirements

Community service refers to the requirement that you complete a specific number of hours of unpaid work as part of your sentence. Community service hours can be a condition of your sentence after a DUI conviction. The number of hours required depends on the severity of the offense and your criminal history.

Community service can involve various tasks, such as picking up litter on the side of the road, working in a soup kitchen, volunteering at a nonprofit organization, or other activities that benefit the community. Furthermore, some courts require that you attend a Drug Safety Action Program (DSAP) class as part of your sentence.

This program helps you understand the risks and consequences of driving under the influence and encourages you to make better decisions in the future.

Increased Insurance Rates

Increased insurance rates refer to the higher auto insurance premiums you may face after a DUI conviction. Insurance companies will often increase their rates for drivers with a DUI on their record, as they are seen as a higher risk. You may also be required to carry an expensive insurance policy or obtain proof of financial responsibility before you can obtain your license back.

penalties for a DUI in South Carolina will cost you a lot of money

These policies can be costly and may affect your ability to drive legally. Furthermore, you may be required to attend a “consent hearing” before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is a hearing in which you must provide proof that you are financially responsible for any damages caused by your DUI.

Felony DUI Penalties

If your DUI offense is classified as a felony, you could face harsher penalties. Felony DUIs involve aggravating factors, such as previous convictions, excessive speed, or the presence of hazardous materials. Also, if your DUI results in serious injury or death, you could face felony charges and harsher penalties.

Felony DUIs can result in significant jail time, fines, and loss of driving privileges. You may also be required to pay restitution for any injuries or damages caused by your DUI. Additionally, you may have to attend a drug assessment or treatment program if ordered by the court.

We Can Help With DUI Charges

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal but also dangerous. A DUI conviction can have negative consequences that can impact your life for years to come. For example, you may face license suspensions, jail time, increased auto insurance rates, and other penalties.

Additionally, DUI convictions can impact your employment opportunities and risk of death from impaired driving. It is important that you speak to a DUI defense attorney about your legal options. They can help you navigate the complex process and fight for a favorable outcome.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI offense in South Carolina, contact us at Touma Law Group today. Our experienced attorneys have the knowledge and skill to help you fight your charges and minimize your penalties. We understand the importance of protecting your rights and we are committed to providing the highest quality legal representation. For a free consultation, reach out to us now through our contact form or call 864-618-2323.​

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