South Carolina DUI Laws and cases are some of the most complex areas of law that Crangle Law Firm handles. This article takes an in-depth look at SC DUI law.

Is it Illegal to Drink & Drive in South Carolina?

NO. You may drink alcohol and lawfully drive. It is illegal to be so impaired that your “faculties are materially and appreciably impaired.”

What is Driving Under the Influence in South Carolina?

SC Code 56-5-2930 defines DUI:

It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.

SC DUI Law 56-5-2930

Broken down, SC DUI Law has 3 parts; (1) driving a motor vehicle, (2) under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination, & (3) the driver’s faculties are materially and appreciably impaired. Let’s break them down.

Driving a Motor Vehicle

SC requires that the vehicle actually move or was moved. This is different than other states, like North Carolina, only require operating. The State must prove that the driver was driving or recently drove.

Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs, or Both

The State must prove that the driver was under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs. There are many ways to prove this: odor of alcohol, driver’s admission of drinking, open containers, drug paraphernalia, drug odor, breath test, urine test, or blood test.

Prescription drugs are not excluded, and you may be charged for DUI based solely on lawfully prescribed drugs if you meet the other elements.

Materially & Appreciably Impaired

This is the key element. Almost all DUI cases are fought over this element. Both elements matter.

Materially: Do the drugs and alcohol actually make a meaningful difference in your driving ability? If not, no DUI.

Appreciably: Can you notice impairment while driving? Are you slower than a normal driver? Are you weaving? Would you cause an accident?

How Does the Prosecution Prove DUI in SC?

The prosecution relies on a variety of evidence: in-car video showing you driving, your performance on field sobriety tests, your behavior when stopped, your breath analysis report, your urine analysis, or blood analysis.

At a trial, the arresting officer testifies to the jury what they saw. The officer will describe your behavior, what they smelled, and how you acted. South Carolina DUI Law requires that you be videotaped as part of your arrest. This tape will be played to the jury.

If you blew a breath sample or gave a blood sample, the prosecution will give the jury the results.

To be guilty of DUI, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were (1) driving a motor vehicle, (2) that you were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination, & (3) that your faculties were materially and appreciably impaired.

What is Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration? Is it the Same as DUI?

Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) is a DIFFERENT criminal charge. DUAC is the cousin of DUI. It has the same criminal penalties, the same license suspension, and the same fine. The elements are different.

A person cannot be prosecuted for both DUI & DUAC. The State must choose one of the two charges.

SC Code 56-5-2933 defines DUAC as:

It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while his alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more. 

SC Code 56-5-2933

At first glance, DUAC seems simple: if your BAC is above a 0.08, you’re guilty. However, it’s not that simple.

The DUAC law allows a Defendant to challenge many factors that call into question the reliability of the test. Some of the factors are:

  • Were you lawfully detained?
  • Was the test administered correctly?
  • How long between arrest and testing?
  • Was the officer qualified to run the test?
  • Was the machine functioning properly?
  • Evidence of your driving
  • Performance on field sobriety tests

As you see, DUAC is just as complex as South Carolina DUI law. Experienced DUI attorney John Crangle challenges DUAC charges.

South Carolina DUI Law Punishment

South Carolina DUI law punishes DUI convictions based on two factors: (1) the number of DUI convictions, in state and out of state, in the past 10-years, & (2) your breath alcohol concentration.

 1st Offense2nd Offense3rd Offense4th Offense
Jail48 hours – 90 Days5 days – 3 years  60 days – 5 years1 year – 7 years  
Fine  $400 – $1092$2100 – $6500 $3800 – $10,000 $3800 – $10,000

South Carolina DUI Law Driver’s License Suspension

If convicted of DUI, the DMV will suspend your Driver’s License. The length of your suspension depends on the same two factors: (1) number of DUI convictions in the last 10 years, & (2) your breath alcohol concentration.

SC DUI 1st Offense License Suspension

For a first offense, your Driver’s License is suspended for 6-months. If your breath alcohol concentration was a .14 or below, you may be eligible for a provisional driver’s license: this license will let you drive unrestricted in the state of South Carolina. To obtain a provisional driver’s license you must:

  • Enroll & Complete ADSAP (Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Plan) classes
    • These classes cost $500-2000. The fees are set by South Carolina DUI Law.
    • The shortest class is 16 hours
    • The classes are offered through each County’s behavioral health treatment center.
  • At the end of the 6 month provisional license period, you must purchase SR-22 insurance.

If your breath alcohol concentration is a .15 or higher, your Driver’s License is suspended for 6 months. To drive, you must install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.

SC DUI 2nd or Subsequent Offense License Suspension

If convicted of a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th DUI in the past 10 years, your Driver’s license will be suspended indefinitely. To clear the suspension you must enroll in ADSAP and install an Ignition Interlock Device in your Vehicle.

  • 2nd Offense – 2 years IID
  • 3rd Offense – 4 years IID
  • 4th Offense – Lifetime IID

South Carolina DUI Law on Videotaping Arrest

South Carolina DUI law requires the police to videotape you at the incident site and breath site. This law is a sword and shield for both the defendant and law enforcement. The video may show gross intoxication, or no intoxication. Crangle Law Firm has seen both.

SC Code of Laws 56-5-2953 mandates that law enforcement video:

  • Your field sobriety tests
  • Advisement of Miranda Rights on Video
  • The video must start when blue lights are activated
  • Video at the detention center showing the entire breath test procedure.

If law enforcement does not video, or fails to video your DUI arrest, the Court may dismiss the entire DUI case. There are exceptions to South Carolina DUI Video recording law that are very complex, and too deep to cover here.

Almost all videos are in-car videos, body-cam videos, and videos from the detention center.

Summary

South Carolina DUI Law is some of the most complex and difficult areas of criminal law in South Carolina. It’s the intersection between the US Constitution, South Carolina Constitution, Statute, State Regulations, and county procedures. John Crangle is experienced in challenging DUI arrests and charges.

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