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Will I Go to Jail for DUI in South Carolina?

Posted by Clay Hopkins | Sep 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

Don't Drink and Drive

You are facing a real possibility of spending a considerable amount of time in jail if you have been charged with a DUI in South Carolina. Even first-time DUI offenders could spend some time in jail if convicted of DUI without quality legal defense from an experienced lawyer.

South Carolina DUI Laws And Penalties

South Carolina and Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island area courts don't go easy on DUI offenders. DUI jail sentencing penalties are as follows:

  • First-time offender: 48 hours to 90 days in jail, depending on blood alcohol content (BAC) level
  • Second offense within 10 years: Five days to three years in jail, depending on BAC level
  • Third offense within 10 years: 60 days in jail to five years in prison, depending on BAC level
  • Fourth offense (felony DUI) within 10 years: One to seven years in prison, depending on BAC level

Penalties can increase based on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as well as “enhancements” such as causing a motor vehicle accident or an accident resulting in injury. Additional penalties – such as license points – can be levied for accompanying charges such as reckless driving. With your freedom, your financial well-being, your driver's license and your reputation on the line, it's crucial to seek the advice of an experienced DUI defense lawyer.

Potential Jail Time For A DUI In South Carolina

The potential jail time you face will be enhanced if you were involved in an auto accident. Keep in mind that jail or prison time is only one aspect of the list of penalties and hardships you will face with any DUI charge. Staunch defense is critical for your success in reducing charges or achieving case dismissal.

While jail is not the only consequence you face after a DUI arrest, there's something particularly chilling about the idea of sitting behind bars and hearing the metal door slam shut. Being locked away from friends, family and the day-to-day life they have built is the worst punishment one can imagine.

If you have been arrested for a felony DUI, you could even face time in prison where you will have plenty of time to get to know hardened criminals you have no interest in meeting. The best way to avoid jail time, a prison sentence and other criminal consequences of DUI is to have a proven DUI defense attorney from Drennan Law Firm handle your case.

Get Answers to All Of Your South Carolina DUI FAQs

You've been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. You understandably have many questions about the DUI laws and how they apply to your case.

Please contact us to request customized answers to your legal questions such as:

What is the difference between DUI and DWI?

The terms DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are used interchangeably by many people. South Carolina laws refer to the offense of drunk driving as DUI.

Will you lose your driver's license? If so, for how long?

Your driver's license may be suspended for one month, three months, six months, or longer depending on factors such as (1) whether you are under or over age 21; (2) whether you agree or refuse to submit to chemical blood alcohol content tests (breath, urine or blood tests); (3) what level of blood alcohol content tests indicate if you are tested; (4) whether you have had previous DUI convictions and (5) whether you agree to enter the state's ignition interlock device program. A qualified lawyer on your side will fight to help you keep your driving privileges as the first order of business.

What is the court process for a DUI case?

A DUI case in South Carolina has two main processes: the administrative case with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will determine whether you can keep your driver's license, and the criminal case, which will determine whether you will end up with a conviction and a misdemeanor or felony record.

How much will a DUI cost you?

With court fees and legal fees, you can expect to spend several thousand dollars. Details will vary depending on how straightforward or complex the case becomes.

Will you be required to install an ignition interlock device?

You may be given the opportunity to choose to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car for a period of time, as a condition of restoring your driving privileges.

What if you refused a breath test?

Assuming the traffic stop was justified, if you refused the breath test, you will likely get an automatic driver's license suspension to start with. If you are fortunate, your defense attorney may prove that a police officer stopped you without probable causeand your case may be dismissed.

What if you blew over the legal limit?

The legal limit depends on whether you are under or over age 21. Drivers under 21 may lose their driving privileges until age 21 if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured as .02 or higher. Drivers over age 21 may have licenses suspended, with the length of time depending on if the BAC is measured at .08-.09, .10-.15 or higher. Penalties are more severe when BAC is .16 or higher and may include permanent revocation of one's driver's license for repeat offenses. (Reinstatement may be an option after several years).

How long does a DUI conviction stay on your record?

Generally, a criminal record remains on the books until and unless it is expunged. However, DUIs are not eligible for expungement in South Carolina.

How long does a DUI stay on your driving record?

It stays for 10 years.

Does a DUI show up on a background check?

It will show up for nearly any background check as a misdemeanor or felony; for more specifics, ask a lawyer.

Can a DUI be expunged?


How long after an accident can you get a DUI?

If a law enforcement officer did not cite you for DUI at the scene of an accident, you are unlikely to be charged unless:

  • You were injured and in the course of your evaluation and treatment, medical personnel determine your BAC was above the legal limit, or
  • Someone else (a pedestrian, passenger or motorist) was injured or killed , and it is subsequently determined that you had been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Speak With A South Carolina DUI Defense Lawyer

Our South Carolina DUI attorneys are highly knowledgeable about Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island DUI laws. We know how to defend your case, seek to keep your license, minimize the consequences, guard your driving privileges and protect your future.

Please call us at (843) 314-4202 or contact us for a schedule a free initial consultation.

About the Author

Clay Hopkins

South Carolina Lawyer


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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.