DUI charges can come about in many ways – a cop saw you swerving, you were pulled over for speeding and the officer smelled alcohol, or there was an accident, for example.
In many cases, police will charge a person with driving under the influence because they smell alcohol – there are police officers who believe any alcohol is too much before driving, regardless of what the law says.
If you have been charged with a DUI offense in SC, you should know what the law says, what your rights are, and what are you facing.
In this article, we will cover the basics of SC’s DUI laws, including:
- DUI administrative hearings and license suspensions,
- The definitions of DUI and DUAC under SC law,
- The different types of DUI charges in SC, and
- The potential penalties for DUI.
DUI Charges in SC: Criminal and Administrative Proceedings
There may be “two sides” to your DUI charge in SC – the administrative side of things, where you are dealing with the DMV, and the criminal side of things, where you are dealing with the prosecutor (or police officer in some cases). The Administrative Proceedings arise if you refuse the DataMaster (breath testing device) or if you blow above .15% on the DataMaster (breath testing device).
They are separate from each other – if you win your implied consent (administrative) hearing, you are still facing the DUI charges in criminal court and another license suspension if you are convicted. If you lose your implied consent hearing, your license could be suspended twice – once for an implied consent violation and again for a criminal DUI conviction.
DUI Administrative Proceedings: Implied Consent Hearings
If you refuse the DataMaster test or if you take the test and the BAC result is .15 or greater, your license is immediately suspended under SC’s implied consent laws.
You or your attorney will need to immediately request an implied consent/ DUI administrative hearing where you can challenge the suspension. If you do not request an administrative hearing within 30 days, or if you lose the hearing, your license will be suspended, you will need to enroll in ADSAP, and, depending on the circumstances, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) before you can drive again.
Temporary DUI Licenses
Can you get a temporary license that allows you to drive after you have been charged with DUI?
Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for:
- A Temporary Alcohol License (TAL) that allows you to drive until your implied consent hearing,
- A provisional license that allows you to drive after a DUI conviction (first offense with a BAC of .14% or less),
- A route restricted license that allows you to drive after taking the DataMaster and blowing above .15% or greater, or
- The ignition interlock device program that allows you to drive after you have installed an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
DUI Criminal Charges
Driving under the influence and DUI-related criminal charges in SC include:
- DUI 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th and subsequent offenses under SC Code Section 56-5-2930,
- DUAC 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th and subsequent offenses under SC Code Section 56-5-2933,
- Felony DUI resulting in great bodily injury or death under SC Code § 56-5-2945,
- DUI under the age of 21 (license suspension for BAC of .02 or greater) under SC Code § 56-1-286, and
- DUI child endangerment under SC Code § 56-5-2947.
What is DUI?
It is not against the law to drink and then drive in SC.
SC does not have a “zero-tolerance law” except in cases of drivers under the age of 21.
So, what is against the law? To get a conviction for driving under the influence, the state must prove:
- That you were driving – which requires that the vehicle be in motion (this can be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence).
- While under the influence of alcohol or drugs – note that DUI does not require a specific BAC result,
- To the extent that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
The state does not need a DataMaster result to get a conviction for DUI if there is other evidence of intoxication like the officer’s testimony or video evidence. On the other hand, a high BAC result does not automatically mean a conviction – the state must prove that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired at the time you were driving.
What is DUAC?
Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration requires a different kind of proof than DUI charges.
To get a conviction for DUAC, the state only needs to prove that your BAC was .08 or greater. It doesn’t matter how intoxicated you were or whether it affected your ability to drive – the only requirement for a conviction is a breath or blood test result of .08 or more.
- There must be a test result for the state to go forward with your trial – if there is no test result, there is no way to prove what your BAC was,
- You may need an expert witness to testify as to why the breathalyzer or blood test result is not accurate, and
- The state may need an expert witness to testify as to why the machine was accurate.
Penalties for DUI and DUAC in SC
The penalties for DUI or DUAC in SC can be harsh, and, depending on the circumstances, may include:
- Mandatory minimum prison sentences,
- Substantial fines and court costs,
- License suspensions and DMV fees,
- License revocation as a habitual traffic offender,
- Community service,
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle,
- SR-22 insurance for three years (or longer if there is a lapse in coverage), and
- A criminal record for drunk driving that can never be expunged.
DUI Defense Lawyers in Lexington, SC
Your Lexington, DUI defense lawyer will answer your questions, investigate your charges, and work to get your case dismissed, find a resolution that is acceptable, or win your case at trial.