What Are the South Carolina DUI Laws?

In South Carolina, driving a vehicle after drinking or using drugs can result in serious penalties under state DUI and DUAC laws. South Carolina statutes set the limits for blood alcohol levels, rules for testing, and penalties for operating a vehicle after drinking or using drugs.

Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (DUI)

South Carolina law prohibits a person from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that the person's faculties to drive are materially and appreciably impaired. If you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, it will be inferred that you were driving under the influence. If you have a BAC that is at least 0.05% but less than 0.08%, your BAC may be considered along with other evidence, such as sobriety test failure, to infer that you are under the influence.

Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC)

South Carolina law prohibits driving a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Unlike a DUI, under the "per se" DUAC statute no evidence of "impairment" is necessary for a conviction.

Implied Consent

South Carolina law states that any person driving in the state is considered to have given consent for testing of breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse BAC testing, you face a 6-month suspension of your license. If you have a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension within the preceding ten years, you may receive a 9-month suspension.

Zero Tolerance

South Carolina law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from operating a vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.02%. Under South Carolina's "zero tolerance" law, a person under 21 who drives with a BAC above 0.02% faces an automatic suspension of his or her license for three months or six months if there's a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension in the preceding five years. If a person under 21 refuses to consent to BAC testing, his or her license will be automatically suspended for six months or one year if there's a prior alcohol-related conviction or suspension in the preceding five years.

Criminal Penalties

In addition to any administrative penalties, South Carolina DUI and DUAC convictions can result in the following criminal penalties:

  • First Offense DUI or DUAC - misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $400 fine, and 6-month revocation (BAC under 0.10%), or by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, and 6-month revocation (BAC 0.10-0.16%), or by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and 6-month revocation (BAC above 0.16%);
  • Second Offense DUI or DUAC - misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a $5,100 fine, and 1-year revocation (BAC under 0.10%), or by up to 2 years in jail, a $5,500 fine, and 1-year revocation (BAC 0.10-0.16%), or by up to 3 years in jail, a $6,500 fine, and 1-year revocation (BAC above 0.16%);
  • Third Offense DUI or DUAC - misdemeanor, punishable by up to 3 years in jail, a $6,300 fine, and 2- or 4-year revocation (BAC under 0.10%), or by up to 4 years in jail, a $7,500 fine, and 2- to 4-year revocation (BAC 0.10-0.16%), or by up to 5 years in jail, a $10,000 fine, and 2- to 4-year revocation (BAC above 0.16%);
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense DUI or DUAC - felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, and permanent revocation (BAC under 0.10%), or by up to 6 years in jail, and permanent revocation (BAC 0.10-0.16%), or by up to 7 years in jail, and permanent revocation (BAC above 0.16%). 

Along with the above penalties, ignition interlock may be required once a license suspension period ends.

Commercial Drivers

In South Carolina, a commercial driver is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year if convicted of a first offense DUI driving any vehicle, having a BAC of 0.04% while driving a commercial vehicle, or refusing to submit to testing.

Considerations

In the event you are convicted of a DUI or DUAC, your license will be suspended for at least 6 months. However, following conviction, you may apply for a provisional license. South Carolina's DUI laws are complicated and you may wish to consult with an experienced DUI attorney so you can better understand your rights and responsibilities and the requirements in obtaining a provisional license.

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