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Even responsible drivers should familiarize themselves with the DUI laws in their home state. If you live in or regularly travel through South Carolina, you may have questions about the legal limits for drinking and operating a vehicle in the Palmetto State. Our guide explains what you need to know about South Carolina DUI laws and penalties for violations.

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South Carolina DUI Laws Overview

In South Carolina, driving under the influence refers to individuals who drive while intoxicated to such an extent that the driver’s faculties are “materially and appreciably” impaired. Law enforcement officials can determine if someone is impaired by measuring the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), or by observing the individual’s behavior for signs of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drivers with a BAC of .08 percent or greater will be charged with a ‘per se DUI,’ even if they are not acting in an impaired way. For commercial drivers, it’s illegal to drive in South Carolina with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher.

Refusing Testing For A DUI In SC

South Carolina DUI laws include an implied consent law stipulating that any driver in South Carolina agrees to undergo chemical testing for driving under the influence while in the state. Hence, refusing to be tested for suspicion of driving while impaired is a violation that can result in harsh civil and criminal penalties. Refusing to take a test means offenders are required to undergo substance abuse courses and pay a minimum $100 license reinstatement fee.

Underage DUIs In South Carolina

South Carolina DUI laws are strict for minors. If you’re under 21 and caught driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher, you can be charged with an underage DUI. First-time underage offenders will have their licenses suspended for three months, and second-time offenders (within five years) will have their licenses suspended for six months.

Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices For Some Offenses

South Carolina DUI laws require drivers convicted of two or more DUIs to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles. These devices require drivers to blow into them to have their BAC measured before they can operate their vehicles. A DUI South Carolina 1st offense will not lead to an IID.

Unlike a driver with a DUI first offense, SC rules require that second-time offenders to install an IID for two years. Whereas third-time offenders install an IID for three years, and fourth or subsequent offenses require a lifelong IID.

Criminal Penalties For DUI In South Carolina

Criminal consequences for a DUI in SC can be steep. These penalties are determined by BAC and are separate from potential administrative penalties (such as having your license suspended or IID requirements). The South Carolina DUI Limit is .08 and drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with a BAC over .08 percent. Offenders with a BAC that is at least .05 but less than .08 may be convicted of a DUI if other evidence supports a DUI finding.

Offenders with a BAC under 0.16 percent may face a fine of up to $400, a 48-hour minimum jail sentence, a maximum of up to 30 days in jail, and/or 28 hours of community service requirements for DUI first offense in SC.

A second-time offender may face fines ranging from $2,100 to $5,100, a minimum of five days in jail, and a maximum of up to one year of jail time.

A third-time DUI offender in South Carolina may receive a fine of $3,800 to $6,300, a 60-day minimum jail sentence, and a maximum jail sentence of up to three years.

South Carolina DUI laws allow higher fines and longer jail time for offenders with a BAC of over 0.16 percent.

10-Year Look Back Rule

South Carolina will evaluate a driver’s record for the previous 10 years to determine the number of prior DUI convictions. Essentially, DUIs “fall off” the record after 10 years.

South Carolina DUI FAQs

What Is An Open Container Violation?

Some individuals who are charged with DUI in South Carolina also get charged for an open container violation. Drivers found with an open alcoholic container anywhere in a vehicle (other than the trunk or luggage compartment) may be subject to up to 30 days in jail and an added $100 fine.

Is A DUI Always A Felony in SC?

With a DUI first offense, SC doesn’t typically consider a first DUI as a felony, though a DUI that causes bodily injury or death most likely will be charged as a felony.

How Long Will A DUI Stay On My Record?

South Carolina drivers have 3-year and 10-year driving records. DUIs will always be included in these records. After 10 years, a DUI may fall off your driving record, but it will remain on your criminal record. DUIs cannot be expunged.

Do You Need A Legal Review For A DUI Charge?

Understanding South Carolina DUI laws is an essential step in avoiding a DUI charge. But sometimes knowing the law isn’t enough to avoid a conviction. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, obtain a free legal review today.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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