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Not a game: Felony DUI and South Carolina's three-strikes law

The best pitchers in baseball are often defined by their ability to rack up three strikes in order to send their opponents back to the bench. Although America's pastime is a game beloved by many, three strikes in the world of criminal law should never be taken lightly.

A number of states, including South Carolina, have adopted a "three-strikes law." Under this type of provision, defendants are typically subject to the very stringent criminal penalties for being convicted of the same criminal charge three times. If this condition is met in South Carolina, a person is automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Upon examining the statute more closely, it has a tiered system. Certain types of charges will invoke a life sentence after two convictions and others put the law into effect at three convictions. More specifically, certain felony driving under the influence cases fall under this law.

If a person causes death in the course of an alcohol-related motor vehicle accident and is convicted of this offense three times, then South Carolina law dictates that he or she will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As we covered in an earlier blog post, felony DUI charges can be applied if an impaired driver causes serious bodily injury. Furthermore, the maximum penalty associated with fatal DUI cases is five years in prison. As such, the sentence associated with the three-strikes law is certainly quite serious.

Even though felony drunk driving charges are incredibly serious and repeat offenses may seem difficult to defend against, individuals still have legal rights. After being charged by law enforcement, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty -- no matter the details of a case.

Source: WestLaw, S.C. Code 1976 § 17-25-45

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