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South Carolina: what you should know about DUI statutes

South Carolina is a beautiful state with a long history. Its scenic waterways and other attractions make it a go-to destination for active outdoor adventures, as well as exploration of our nation's history.

With so much to draw you in, it is not surprising that so many people choose to visit the state. Unfortunately, many visitors neglect to look at the particulars of statutes like South Carolina's DUI laws, and that can derail a vacation for the unprepared.

Basic facts about drinking and driving in South Carolina

The first thing to note is that while South Carolina does have fairly strict penalties for DUI offenses, many of them are at the discretion of the judge, which means that having the right lawyer to negotiate on your behalf is very important in the state.

Other facts you should know include the following:

  • South Carolina does have jail time as a first offense penalty, and it can vary from 48 hours to 90 days, depending on the judge's discretion, prosecutorial opinions, and the facts of the case.
  • You do not automatically lose your license if your blood alcohol content is between the legal limit of 0.08 percent and 0.14 percent. Instead, you have the option to have an interlock device installed.
  • If you blow over a 0.15 percent BAC and you have no prior convictions, then your license suspension may be for one month. If you refuse the breath test, though, it can be up to six months.
  • South Carolina's implied consent law allows for escalating suspensions if you refuse the test and are subsequently convicted of a DUI.
  • The state holds both an implied consent hearing, at which the issue of license suspension is decided, and also a trial.
  • You do have the choice to opt for a bench trial or a jury trial.
  • First offense fines are only between $400 and $1000, but the additional costs of charges such as ignition interlock devices and fees related to reinstating a license can easily add up to $10,000.

There are heavier penalties for those with multiple prior offenses also written into the statute.

What to do if you are visiting the state

The best advice you can take is to stay sober when you are driving and make use of public transit when you drink, because it can be hard enough navigating a strange environment without worrying about a DUI charge. If you are arrested, make sure you consult with an attorney who understands South Carolina's DUI law well, and who has experience with cases like yours.

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