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What You Need to Know about South Carolina's DUI Laws

Posted by Hopkins Law Firm | Jul 19, 2022 | 0 Comments

It's as simple as you're out for a night on the town and you're leaving the restaurant where you just had dinner and drinks. Then, all of a sudden, you see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror. At this point, you pull over. The officer arrests you and takes you to jail where you are asked to blow in the breathalyzer. You thought this sort of thing could never happen to you, but it did and it does.

Every state has different rules regarding DUIs, and if you're a longtime resident of South Carolina or just moved to the state, then it helps to be in contact with professional DUI defense lawyers like those at the Hopkins Law Firm. Read through this guide to learn what charges you may face in South Carolina if you are driving under the influence.

Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in South Carolina?

While the DUI charging document is a blue traffic ticket, a DUI is still considered a criminal offense and can carry jail time if you are convicted of the DUI.

Not only is DUI a criminal offense, there are also “administrative” penalties that can be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. Administrative penalties can include suspension of your driver's license or your privilege to drive in South Carolina if you are licensed in another state at the time of your arrest. Administrative penalties can also include the required attachment of a alcohol ignition interlock device, the completion of ADSAP (Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program), as well as, other costly and time-consuming requirements.

Should I Take A DUI Breath Test?

In South Carolina, refusing to take a breath test when pulled over for the first time on suspicion of DUI, means your license is immediately suspended for six months. You'll also be required to take the ADSAP class. The class is for individuals who are convicted of DUI, referred by South Carolina Division of Natural Resources for boating under the influence, or whose licenses are suspended through the state's Administrative License Revocation procedure.

It's possible to challenge the license suspension by requesting a hearing within 30 days.

If you're pulled over for a second DUI, refusing to take a breathalyzer results in a 9-month license suspension. A third DUI offence results in a license suspension of 1 year, and a fourth DUI and breath test refusal equals suspension for 15 months.

If you submit to the breathalyzer on your first DUI arrest and blow a 0.15 BAC or greater, you license is immediately suspended for 30 days. It's possible to challenge the suspension by requesting a hearing within 30 days. For a second DUI arrest, a breath sample of 0.15 BAC or great results in a license suspension for two months. A third DUI arrest or fourth DUI arrest with a breath sample of 0.15 BAC or greater is ground for a license suspension for three or four months, respectively.

Can I still get a DUI if I refused the breathalyzer test in South Carolina?

Yes. While blood-alcohol concentration is one piece of evidence that can be used to convict you, even if you don't have to give a breath sample, police can still submit other forms of evidence. Some examples are testimony of odor of alcohol or slurred speech, descriptions or video of failed field sobriety tests, and admissions to drinking by the defendant.

How long does ADSAP last in South Carolina?

ADSAP initially schedules you for an assessment. At the assessment, they determine how long you will be in the program. The most common plan we see requires the following: an enrollment, an assessment, and then one class a week for eight weeks. Sometimes, a person may be required to go for 12 or more weeks. We have seen instances where a person goes on both Saturdays and Sundays, so they go twice a week but cut the total time in half. We cannot give any firm answers to this question because it is completely in ADSAP's hands

Who pays for ADSAP? You do, and it can be from $500 to $2500.

How long does a DUI stay on my driving record in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the two types of driving records that are commonly accessed are the 3-year record and the 10-year record. A DUI will always show up on these records. If it is older than 10 years, then it might not be discovered from a driving record, but it will never be removed from your criminal record, and under current expungement laws in South Carolina, a DUI is not expugnable at any point in the future.

Can you get PTI for DUI in South Carolina?

No. DUI's and other driving offenses under Title 56 of our Code of Laws are excluded from PTI eligibility.

Can you lose your license for DUI 1st in South Carolina? 

Technically, you are suspended for 6 months for a DUI 1st offense. However, if you didn't refuse the breathalyzer and didn't blow a 0.15% or higher on the breath machine, you can likely get a “provisional license,” which has no restrictions in South Carolina, and you can drive on this license during the 6-month suspension period. In other words, you won't feel the effect of the suspension except at the very beginning while the DMV and ADSAP process their paperwork. Even if you don't qualify for the provisional license, you can still end the suspension by enrolling in the Ignition Interlock Device Program and installing the device in your car during the 6-month period.

How long does a DUI case take in South Carolina?

It depends on the court. The first court date usually comes within a month or two of the arrest. If the DUI is contested, some courts take care of them within a few months, while some can go well over a year.

Can a DUI be expunged from my record in South Carolina?

Under current expungement laws in South Carolina, a DUI cannot be expunged at any point in the future.

Does a DUI show up on a background check (or DUAC) in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) maintains criminal backgrounds. If you are arrested and fingerprinted, then the charge will likely show up on your SLED record. In some instances, if your DUI is rewritten to a DUAC, then there are no fingerprints that are associated with the DUAC ticket, and SLED won't report it. However, more and more courts are implementing additional paperwork that does away with this loophole so that the DUAC still shows up on the SLED record.

How much does SR-22 insurance cost?

This number is not created by the courts. It's created by the insurance companies, and their quotes are based on a series of factors and not just the fact that someone is convicted of DUI or DUAC. So, we can't quote the insurance companies. What we generally tell clients is to be prepared for your insurance rates to triple, and if the premium is any lower, they should consider it a bonus.

Can you get a provisional license for a DUI in South Carolina?

If you submitted a breath sample of less than 0.15% and it is your first offense for DUI within the last 10 years, then you likely qualify for a provisional license. If you are convicted of a DUI with a refusal, a DUI with a breath sample of 0.15% or higher, or a DUI 2nd offense or greater, then you will not qualify for a provisional license. Except in extreme cases, even without a provisional license, you can likely keep driving if you install an Ignition Interlock Device in your car or truck.

What if you just plead guilty to get it over with?

I know from years of representing many people charged with DUI, that it's tempting to just plead guilty and get it over with. The problem with this logic is that a DUI is not a one-and-done process. The real consequences begin after trial.

For example, you will likely have to pay the fine, do ADSAP, undergo the suspension period, deal with your increased insurance rates, potentially lose your job and on and on and on. I know that these penalties can put a pretty big strain on most relationships and many other parts of your life.

The DUI Lawyers at the Hopkins Law Firm Are Here to Help You With Your DUI Charges in South Carolina

Being charged with a DUI comes with harsh penalties and fines that are worth fighting to avoid. The aftermath caused from a DUI conviction can be devastating and life changing. Not only do you face harsh penalties and fines, but you could lose your license, your job, or even face jail time, depending on the circumstances. Should you or someone you know find themselves in the situation where they have been charged with driving under the influence, contact the DUI lawyes at the Hopkins Law Firm to discuss your options and how we can best help you. Feel free to contact us at (843) 314-4202 or contact us online today.

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When you have to go to court, you want to know your lawyer will fight for you so you get the best possible outcome. Here at Hopkins Law Firm, our team of personal injury, family law, and criminal defense lawyers has the experience and insights needed to help you present your best case. Our team has helped many clients to protect their future. With locations in Charleston, Pawleys Island, and Myrtle Beach, we can make sure you get the counsel you need anywhere in South Carolina.