There is no such thing as a minor DUI in South Carolina. Any conviction carries the potential for jail time. With your freedom on the line, you would need an attorney representing you to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Our Charleston criminal defense attorney at Davis Curry Law are available when you need us. Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Potential Penalties for a South Carolina DUI
If you are stopped and tested, and your blood alcohol level is above .08, you are presumed to be intoxicated. South Carolina even punishes motorists who are pulled over for DUI with a blood alcohol content of less than .08.
DUI convictions where there is no great bodily injury or death are punished based on the number of offenses you have been convicted of and your BAC level at the time you are stopped. The higher the BAC, the more likely it is that you are sentenced to prison (and potentially for a longer term) and given a larger fine.
Here are the applicable penalties for a South Carolina DUI:
- A first offense will result in the loss of your driving privileges for six months, and up to 90 days and prison or a fine and surcharges of up to $992 if your BAC is .08-.10. If your BAC is .10-.16, the minimum jail sentence would be three days. The jail time increases to 30-90 days if your BAC is above .16.
- A second offense (with a BAC of less than .10 will result in the loss of your driver’s license for one year, imprisonment of five days to one year and fines and assessments ranging from $2100 to $5100. For a BAC between .10-.16, the jail sentence would be 30 days to two years, and it would rise to 90 days to three years for a BAC above .16.
- A third offense would result in a mandatory license suspension of two years and a 60-day to three-year jail sentence for a BAC of under .10, a 90 days to four-year sentence for a BAC between .10-.16 and a six month to five-year jail sentence for a BAC over .16. Fines and assessments could range up to $10,000.
Law enforcement can look as far back as ten years to determine whether a DUI is a second or subsequent offense.
The prosecutor and court have some leeway when it comes to sentencing for first and second offenses. For a first offense, the court could substitute community service for jail time and a fine. For a second offense, the court could suspend the jail sentence. However, the prosecutor and the court may be less lenient if you have been charged with DUI with a very high BAC.
If you choose to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor, you should have an attorney do it on your behalf because you may be able to obtain a more favorable plea bargain. The prosecutor may have an incentive to negotiate with you.
The Non-Criminal Consequences of a South Carolina DWI Conviction
The threat of jail time should be stressful enough. There are other potential ramifications of a DUI conviction, even if you are not sent to jail. These include:
- You will have a criminal record that will be available to the public when they conduct a search or a background check
- You could become ineligible for certain jobs that require driving (including when you have a CDL license or are a bus driver)
- Your immigration status could change, and you could be at risk of being deported
- A conviction could impact a child custody case
If you have been charged with DUI, it is not a foregone conclusion that you will be convicted. Like every other criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the allegations against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
You could choose to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor in which you plead no contest (it is better for your legal situation to plead no contest instead of guilty) in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Defenses to a South Carolina DUI Charge
You could also fight the charges against you and make the prosecutor prove them in court. You may have some defenses against the criminal charges that could include:
- Police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you in the first place (in a criminal case, a reasonable suspicion is defined as the officer having a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed)
- The Breathalyzer machine that was used to test you was not properly calibrated
- The chemical evidence was improperly taken, corrupted or did not have the proper chain of custody
- Police otherwise violated your rights between the time that you were arrested and tried
You and your attorney would speak during your case to determine the best possible course of action. Sometimes, it makes sense to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor in exchange for a lighter sentence. You may even be able to be placed in a pre-trial diversion program.
However, you should not necessarily plead guilty for the sake of resolving your case. If you have grounds to fight the charges, you and your attorney may choose to defend the case in court.
If you have been convicted of DUI, and you believe that it was in error, you have the right to appeal. In South Carolina, you would begin the process by filing a Notice and Grounds for Appeal with the original court. Your case would then be heard at the circuit court level.
Contact a Charleston DUI Attorney for Legal Help Today
You should not be alone to face the criminal justice system, no matter the offense. Davis Curry Law can defend you in a DUI case, as you navigate the legal process and learn how the charges can affect your life. Your first and immediate step should be to contact us for a free initial consultation.