Like many others who have been arrested for DUI in SC, you may have spent the night (or longer) in jail, stood in front of a magistrate to have a bond set, and now you’ve finally made it back home. Now you may be wondering just how much trouble you’re in.
You have a court date to appear before a judge, your license may be suspended because you either refused the breathalyzer or blew and your BAC was too high, and you aren’t sure what to do next.
Do you need a DUI defense lawyer? What does “implied consent” mean? Are there deadlines that you must meet to save your license or to avoid a conviction?
Driving Under the Influence in South Carolina
The first thing to do if you have been charged with DUI in SC: get an experienced DUI defense attorney on your case immediately. In the meantime, below, we will try to answer some of the most common questions we hear from our clients.
1. What are DUI Charges in SC?
DUI in South Carolina may be different than driving while intoxicated charges in other states – you may have more potential defenses to the DUI charges and there may be different elements the State must prove to convict you.
In SC, the State must prove that you were:
- Intoxicated on alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,
- To the extent that your faculties to drive were “materially and appreciably impaired.”
The potential penalties for DUI in SC depend on a number of factors like how many previous DUI convictions you have had in the past ten years and the breathalyzer result, but you are likely facing mandatory minimum jail time if you are convicted.
2. What is a DUAC vs. DUI?
DUAC stands for driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration. This is SC’s “per se statute.”
If you are charged with DUAC, the State does not have to prove your actual level of intoxication. They only need to prove that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08% or greater, although you can still argue that the breathalyzer result should be excluded at trial. You can also introduce evidence to show that you were not intoxicated or that the breathalyzer result was wrong.
DUAC carries the same potential penalties and consequences as a DUI in SC.
3. Are DUIs Misdemeanors or Felonies?
A DUI in SC could be a misdemeanor or it could be a felony – a DUI or DUAC 1st or 2nd offense is considered a misdemeanor, while a DUI 3rd, 4th or subsequent offense is a felony.
“Felony DUI” is a separate offense that is charged when a person negligently causes an accident while driving under the influence, and the accident results in great bodily injury or death to another person.
4. Do I Lose My License if I Get a DUI Conviction?
If you are convicted of DUI your license will be suspended. In some cases, you will be able to continue driving with an ignition interlock device (IID) that requires you to pass a breathalyzer test before starting your ignition.
You may be eligible for a “route restricted license” that lets you drive to work, school, church, or to doctor’s appointments.
In other cases, however, your license may be revoked due to habitual offender status or you may not be eligible for an IID or route restricted license due to multiple suspensions or DUI convictions.
5. Is it Worth it to Fight DUI Charges?
It is always worth it to fight criminal charges.
In the case of DUI in SC, you should know that there are mandatory minimum jail sentences if you are convicted, your license will be suspended, there will be substantial fines, you will have to enroll in the ADSAP program, and you will have to maintain SR-22 insurance continuously for three years.
Also, a DUI conviction will stay on your record for the rest of your life – the only way to prevent this is to fight the first DUI and don’t get arrested again.
6. What Happens if You Refuse the Breathalyzer?
When you refuse the breathalyzer test, your license is automatically suspended under SC’s “implied consent” laws. On the other hand, if you take the test and blow a .15% or greater, your license is still suspended automatically.
If you take the test and blow less than .15%, your license is not automatically suspended, but you may have just provided the State with the best evidence they need to convict you – when you are convicted of DUI, your license will still be suspended.
Get an attorney immediately and request an administrative hearing to challenge the implied consent suspension – there is a 30-day deadline to request your hearing. Once you’ve requested your hearing, you can get a temporary license that allows you to drive until the implied consent hearing.
If you win the hearing (or the officer doesn’t show up or the officer doesn’t enter testimony), the suspension is rescinded and you get your license back. If you don’t request the hearing or if you lose at the hearing, your license is suspended, you must enroll in ADSAP, and you may have to install an ignition interlock device before you can drive again.
7. Does a DUI Show Up on a Background Check?
DUI in SC is a criminal offense as well as a traffic violation. It will show up on a background check, it does not “fall off” after ten years, and it will affect your prospects for employment, especially if you are looking for a job that involves driving a vehicle.
8. Can I Expunge a DUI Conviction in SC?
Because DUI is a traffic offense, it cannot be expunged. It is also not eligible for pretrial diversion programs like PTI.
Reckless driving is an exception that can be sent to PTI – the only way to get a DUI conviction expunged, sort of, is when the prosecutor agrees to rewrite the ticket to reckless driving and allows you to complete the PTI program.
If your DUI charges are dismissed or if you are acquitted at trial, the arrest and all records of your prosecution can be expunged.
9. Can I Still Drive to Work After a DUI Conviction?
In some cases, you can drive to work after a DUI conviction if:
- You have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your vehicle, or
- You are eligible for a provisional or route restricted license, and
- You comply with the other requirements such as ADSAP, SR-22 insurance, and payment of all administrative fees.
In other cases, you may not be able to drive at all if you have too many consecutive suspensions or a habitual traffic offender revocation.
DUI Defense in SC
If you have been charged with DUI in SC, your first step is to consult with a SC DUI defense attorney – immediately, because you may have deadlines that cannot be missed like your administrative hearing request or jury trial request.
Give us a call at (843) 501-0602 or contact us through our website to set up a free initial consultation and find out how we can help.