A lot of drivers opt to have just one drink and still get behind the wheel. Although buzzed driving may be considered drunk driving, in South Carolina the law enforcement must be able to prove two factors to charge you with a DUI (driving under the influence). They have to prove that you were indeed under the influence of alcohol (or drugs), and that you have a BAC (blood alcohol content) above the legal limit, which is .08%.
During your day in court, a jury will determine if you broke these two laws. The prosecuting attorney will provide evidence against your innocence. The police officer that pulled you over will be a key witness. He or she will testify what your behavior was like on the night in question. If you failed a field sobriety test or breathalyzer, this would be noted. The jury must then agree that you were guilty of a DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.
If for any reason they are unsure that you were impaired or simply think you may or may not have been impaired, then they must find you not guilty of the charges. On the other hand, if they feel confident that your blood alcohol content was above the legal limit, even after only one drink, then you will be charged and convicted. You can be accused of a DUI even if you are not 21 years of age. Age does not play a factor as a matter of being guilty or innocent.
Penalties for a DUI
The penalties for a DUI vary based on the number of offenses and your blood alcohol content. If it was your first time committing this crime, and you were not overly drunk, your penalty will be lesser compared to someone who has already been convicted three or four times. Here is a list of the penalties for a DUI related to offense and BAC.
DUI-1st offense (BAC between .08% and .09%)
Your sentence will most likely include jail time of up to 30 days. You may have the option to complete community service if the judge allows it. Your fines will be up to $400, not including court costs and other fees. You will lose your driver’s license for a minimum of six months and have to get special SR-22 insurance.
If this seems like a harsh penalty, this is just the beginning. The more times you are convicted of DUI, and the higher your BAC, the worse the penalty gets.
DUI-1st offense (BAC between .10% and .15%)
In this case, all of the penalties are the same as the DUI-1st offense (BAC between .10% and .15%). However, the fines can be up to $500, not including court costs or other fees.
DUI-1st offense (BAC of .16% or higher)
Jail time in this situation results in 30 days to 90 days. Your fines can reach up to $1,000, along with standard court costs and fees. The rules for your driver’s license and insurance remain the same. However, you are also required to complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and pay the associated fees of the course.
DUI-2nd offense (BAC between .08% and .09%)
After your second offense, the penalties increase dramatically. You can face up to one year of jail time. Your fines will be between $2,100 and $5,100, plus court costs and fee assessments. You will lose your driving privileges immediately for up to 60 days, and then it will remain suspended for a minimum of one year. You also have to get special SR-22 insurance.
DUI-2nd offense (BAC between .10% and .15%)
In this case, your jail time is doubled up to two years. The fines increase slightly to between $2,500 and $5,500, plus court costs and fee assessments. The same rules apply for your license and insurance, but you are also required to complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program and pay the associated fees.
DUI-2nd offense (BAC of .16% or higher)
You are now facing up to three years in jail. Your fines can be anywhere from $3,500 and $6,500, not including your standard court costs and fees. The license suspension, insurance requirements, and program remain the same.
DUI-3rd offense (BAC between .08% and .09%)
After you are found guilty of your third DUI, you have the potential to be in jail for three years. The fines are between $3,800 and $6,300, plus court costs and fee assessments. Your license will be suspended for two years. However, if this conviction occurred within five years of your second conviction, you will lose your license for four years. You are required to obtain special SR-22 insurance.
DUI-3rd offense (BAC between .10% and .15%)
In this case, you can face up to four years in jail. Your fines continue to increase to between $5,000 and $7,500, not including court costs. The license suspension and insurance requirements remain the same.
DUI-3rd offense (BAC of .16% or higher)
You will be forced to face up to five years in jail if your conviction falls into this category. Your fines are up to $7,500 and $10,000, plus court costs and fee assessments. Although the license suspension and insurance requirements do not change, at this stage you must complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, and pay the related fees.
DUI-4th offense (BAC between .08% and .09%)
If you are convicted of a DUI for the fourth time, you will be charged with a felony drunk driving. You can face anywhere from one to five years in jail. You will lose your license indefinitely, and the fines are set by the trial judge. However, you can assume they will be extremely costly.
DUI-4th offense (BAC between .10% and .15%)
You have the potential to be in jail for up to six years with a felony drunk driving on your record. Your fines can range from $5,100 to $10,100, plus court costs and fee assessments. Once again, you will permanently lose your license.
DUI-4th offense (BAC of .16% or higher)
After being charged with a felony drunk driving, you will face between three years and seven years in jail. The fines are set by the trial judge, you will lose your license permanently, and you must complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, and pay the associated fees.
These are just the minimum penalties associated with your DUI conviction. The judge can add more requirements at his or her discretion. One of those extra penalties may include that an ignition interlock device must be placed on your vehicle. This means that every time you go to start your car, you are forced to take a built-in breathalyzer test. The device will measure your BAC level. If it is above the legal limit, your car will not start.
Further, it is important to understand that these DUI penalties are about nobody else being in the car or injured as a result of an accident. If an injury or death takes place because of a DUI-related collision, then you are automatically charged with a felony drunk driving.
In either case, a DUI conviction will stay on your criminal record permanently. There is no option for Expungement in South Carolina for a DUI. This will directly affect your future for things like job and school opportunities. If you are accused of a DUI, it is in your best interest to hire a criminal defense lawyer.