As a criminal defense attorney in South Carolina, I work with clients facing alcohol-related charges to untangle the language and consequences impaired driving charges. This article provides information about regulations, penalties, and criminal defense for those charges.
South Carolina law divides DUI offenses into two categories:
- DUI Charges: Law enforcement may charge a driver with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), if a chemical test ("breathalyzer") shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. A DUI charge may be issued even if a person's BAC is below this level, if the driver's use of alcohol or drugs has affected their operation of a vehicle. DUI charges can also include prescription and over-the-counter medications, which may affect a person's BAC and/or ability to drive.
- DUAC Charges: If a driver is pulled over for a reason unrelated to driving — such as a broken tail light — rather than for obviously impaired driving, and the officer subsequently decides to issue a chemical test, a BAC of 0.08% or above constitutes DUAC, Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Content. For drivers under age 21, the BAC limit is 0.02%; the limit drivers with a CDL are 0.04%.
A DUI or DUAC conviction can lead to both civil and criminal penalties.
- Civil penalties include driver's license suspension.
- Criminal penalties can range from community service to up to 7 years in jail.
Criminal charges and sentencing are affected by a driver's history, so a second or subsequent DUI charge will carry higher fines and more jail time than a first offense.
It is critical to find legal representation immediately after receiving a DUI or DUAC charge, especially if your breath test reports a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or if you refused to submit to a breath test. In these cases, your license will be automatically suspended if you do not challenge said suspension within 30 days.
The facts and possible outcomes of every case are different. If you are facing DUI or DUAC charges in South Carolina, an experienced attorney can help you craft an effective defense strategy that may help you stay on the road.