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South Carolina Drunk Driving Laws

Many South Carolinians will not hesitate to profess their love of Fireball whiskey. However, the costs of combining that love with a joy ride to, say, Myrtle Beach are steep. South Carolina takes drunk driving very seriously -- you can even lose your license for six months just for refusing to take a breathalyzer test. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or a related offense, you should get to know South Carolina drunk driving laws and the possible penalties you may face if you're convicted.

What South Carolina Law Says About Testing the Alcohol in Your Blood

In South Carolina, it's illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol (Sec. 56-5-2930(A)). To determine if a driver is drunk, a police officer will normally conduct a field sobriety test and a check of your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). If you're over 21, you're presumed drunk if your BAC is .08 percent or more (Sec. 56-5-2950(G)(3)). If it's between .05 percent and .079, and you show signs of impairment (such as a failed field sobriety test), the officer may conclude that you're driving drunk and arrest you (Sec. 56-5-2950(G)(2)).

Additionally, South Carolina is a so-called "zero tolerance" state, which means that people who aren't yet 21 years old may not drive with a BAC greater than .02 percent (Sec. 56-1-286). Doing so results in an automatic driver's license suspension for at least three months.

South Carolina drunk driving laws require the following when testing sobriety:

  • Anyone driving in the state is considered to have given consent to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine their BAC when they're arrested (Sec. 56-5-2950)
  • You may refuse BAC testing, but your license will be suspended for six months (three months if you're under 21) and your refusal can be used against you in court (Sec. 56-5-2950(B)(1))
  • Person performing the breath or blood test must be properly qualified (Sec. 56-5-2950)
  • Officer must video record any field sobriety tests and breath tests (Sec. 56-5-2953)

What South Carolina Law Says About Penalties for Drunk Driving

If you're convicted of drunk driving in South Carolina, you could face very serious consequences, which vary depending on your age, BAC level, whether you have previous convictions, and other circumstances. South Carolina statutes include the following penalties for driving under the influence:

  • First Offense (Sec. 56-5-2930(A)(1))
    • Six months driver's license suspension (three if you're under 21)
    • $400 fine OR imprisonment for two to 30 days (or community service)
    • Additional fines and jail time for BAC levels above .10 and .16 percent
  • Second Offense (Sec. 56-5-2930(A)(2))
    • One year driver's license suspension
    • $2,100 to $5,100; AND
    • Five days to one year in prison
    • Additional fines and jail time for BAC levels above .10 and .16 percent
  • Third Offense (Sec. 56-5-2930(A)(3))
    • Two or four year driver's license suspension
    • $3,800 to $6,300; AND
    • 60 days to three years in prison
    • Additional fines and jail time for BAC levels above .10 and .16 percent

Read the full text of the South Carolina Code of Laws for more details.

I Was Arrested for Drunk Driving in South Carolina: What's Next?

Even if you only feel "a little buzzed," you will be arrested if you've been driving and your BAC is over the legal limit. However, even if you've been arrested for a DUI, you can challenge the BAC testing equipment, the procedures used by law enforcement, and the reason for the traffic stop, among other things. An experienced DUI defense attorney can explain the post-arrest process, guide you through your legal options, and help protect your rights.

Receive a Free Case Review from an Attorney Familiar with South Carolina DUI Laws

Drunk driving is no joke in South Carolina. From mandatory license suspensions to fines and jail time, getting arrested for driving while intoxicated can have a huge impact on your future. Whether you've just been arrested or you're negotiating plea deals, consider getting a free case review from an attorney who has experience navigating South Carolina's drunk driving laws.

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