State agencies enforce severe DUI laws in South Carolina for the purposes of deterring drivers from drinking alcoholic beverages while operating a vehicle. Harsh DUI penalties are imposed on drivers who are apprehended for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving with unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC).

SC DUI and DWI offenders may incur separate administrative and criminal charges and punishments, governed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the courts. Motorists who are at risk of being convicted of a DUI should consider hiring an attorney in order to reduce their sentences to a minimum. Learn more about the benefits of hiring a DUI lawyer in SC and other DUI proceedings in the sections below.

DUI Citations and Convictions in South Carolina

Violation of South Carolina drunk driving laws may result in the issuance of a DWI citation, which generally requires a driver appear in court to settle the case as stated on the ticket. The severity of consequences imposed usually depends on the circumstances surrounding an offense.

Court-imposed DUI penalties are typically more rigorous than those administered by the SC DMV, as they may include large fines and jail sentences in addition to mandatory suspensions of your privilege to drive. Note that you can be convicted for violating the state implied consent law, as well as for operating under the influence or with an illegal alcohol concentration.

South Carolina Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

Severe DUI penalties in SC are issued to drivers who fail to stay in compliance with the set rules and regulations set by the state.

The seriousness of these punishments usually varies depending on several factors, such as the offender’s age, the detected BAC level, the number of prior offenses on his or her driving transcript and more. For instance, motorists with more than one South Carolina DWI conviction on their record will incur longer suspension periods and larger fines than first-time offenders.

First DUI Offense

If you are convicted of an SC first DUI infraction, you will incur a suspension of your privilege to drive. A DUI suspended license for a period of 6 months will apply in these instances. In addition to this penalty, you may also be punished with steep fines and imprisonment.

Second DUI Offense

Convictions of second DUI offenses due to driving intoxicated or with an unlawful blood alcohol content result in an increased license suspension for the duration of 1 year. Second-time DUI offenders may also be subject to a 30-day registration suspension in addition to any potential fines and jail sentences.

Third DUI Offense

Drivers getting a DUI conviction for the third time may incur a 2-year driving license suspension, a vehicle registration suspension, as well as steep fines and imprisonment sentences. Subsequent convictions of drunk driving in SC may result in even harsher punishments, including a permanent suspension of the offender’s driving credential.

Note: Similar penalties may apply to drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical testing or are underage motorists. Also, licensees who have caused an accident resulting in injuries or fatalities while driving under the influence will be charged with a felony DUI and incur a 3-year license suspension, plus a prison sentence and a large fine.

Drinking and Driving in South Carolina

Due to the seriousness of DUI infractions, the DMV and state courts administer a combination of penalties in an attempt to deter drivers from consuming alcohol and drugs while behind the wheel. Driving intoxicated greatly reduces a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, as their vision, concentration and judgement is impaired, thus increasing the chances of causing deadly car crashes.

Therefore, penalties issued for any alcohol-related offense after a first infraction are progressively severe. Also, motorists who cause bodily injury or death to another person while driving intoxicated in South Carolina will incur the toughest charges and punishments under state rules and regulations.

South Carolina DUI Attorneys

Motorists charged with DUI in SC often need to hire a knowledgeable defense attorney in order to avoid more negative outcomes resulting from the committed infraction.

A South Carolina impaired driving lawyer who is well-acquainted with local and state laws pertaining to such offenses will be able to help drivers prepare a strong defense by reviewing the circumstances of their case.

In addition to this, an experienced drunk driving attorney will provide DUI violators with an explanation about how to complete any court paperwork and advise them on the course of action that best fits their needs.

South Carolina Open Container Laws

Serious drunk driving charges in South Carolina are also brought against licensees who violate state open container laws by possessing an open alcoholic beverage container while behind the wheel. To avoid the issuance of harsh penalties, motorists must place the open container of beer, wine or other liquor in the trunk or luggage compartment of the moving vehicle.

This DUI law does not apply to motor vehicles parked in legal parking locations during sporting events or similar functions.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License in South Carolina

The issuance of an SC DUI suspended license for a specific period of time is part of the penalties that follow after committing such infractions within the state. The length of a license suspension period generally varies based on the type of offense, as well as the number of previous convictions on your driving record.

Reinstating a license suspended due to DUI and DWI in South Carolina is mandatory if you wish to continue to drive legally on state roads and highways. The general steps to restore your full driving privileges include the following:

  • Completing the allotted suspension period.
  • Enrolling and successfully completing an alcohol-related traffic school course.
  • Installing an ignition interlock device (IID), if applicable.
  • Providing proof of financial responsibility.
  • Arranging payment for the applicable restoration fees.

Note: For additional information on reinstatement requirements that may apply to your case, contact a local SC DMV office.

South Carolina Alcohol Awareness Classes

Attending DUI classes in SC is mandatory for motorists who wish to finalize their license reinstatement procedure in a timely manner. The purpose of such courses, also referred to as the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP), is improving driving safety by preventing DUI violators from committing such infractions in the future.

Motorists who attend a South Carolina DUI class will receive assessment, education and intervention services, thus learning about the detrimental effects of alcohol and drugs on safe driving practices.

South Carolina SR-22 Insurance

Filing proof of SC DUI insurance is also one of the requirements to complete a restoration process and staying in accordance with state laws. When submitting insurance after DUI, motorists will be required to obtain an SR-22 form as proof of financial responsibility.

Failure to provide proof of insurance and maintain it for the required period of time may result in a driving license and/or vehicle registration suspension and a restoration price of up to $400.

South Carolina Laws That Pertain to DUI/DWI

Drivers are required to adhere to the imposed drunk driving laws in South Carolina, otherwise they will be charged and penalized for the committed infraction. Under state law, motorists 21 years of age or older may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol for operating with a BAC level of .08 percent or higher.

The imposed laws are stricter for drivers younger than 21 years old, as they are prohibited from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or more. Refusal to submit to a chemical testing is a separate violation, which also leads to immediate driver license suspensions in addition to other penalties.

Hardship License in South Carolina

Drivers with a DUI suspended license in South Carolina may obtain a hardship credential for the purposes of driving a vehicle while completing their penalty period.

Depending on the type of offense, motorists may request a provisional license, a route restricted credential, as well as a temporary alcohol license, once they prove eligible for the procedure. For instance, licensees convicted of a first SC DUI violation may qualify for a provisional license by submitting proof of financial responsibility, completing an ADSAP course and paying the applicable fees among other requirements.

A route restricted license is available to drivers charged for driving with a BAC of .15 percent. However, minors charged with DUI due to an illegal BAC level or test refusal are not allowed to apply for a hardship license. Eligible motorists may also request a temporary alcohol license while waiting the results of their administrative hearing.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.