Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About DUIs in South Carolina

DUI defense is a challenging practice and a complex area of law, and our primary practice area. At Drennan Law Firm, our attorneys handle hundreds of DUI cases each year in the Charleston area and beyond, and we tackle even the toughest challenges. Our team of lawyers will be your strongest advocates and tireless legal representatives when you retain our services to defend your DUI or DUAC case. We have extensive knowledge of DUI laws in South Carolina.

You undoubtedly have questions about your legal rights, the consequences that you face, the status of your license, your legal options and your future. While we cannot predict the future, our lawyers will have a very good idea of what resolution we can steer your case toward following your first consultation, which is free of charge.

Get Answers to All Of Your South Carolina DUI FAQs

You've been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. You understandably have many questions about the DUI laws and how they apply to your case.

Please contact us to request customized answers to your legal questions such as:

  • What is the difference between DUI and DWI? — The terms DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are used interchangeably by many people. South Carolina laws refer to the offense of drunk driving as DUI.
  • Will you go to jail if you are convicted of DUI? — Every case's outcome is determined by its facts, the prosecutor, the judge and other unique factors. A conviction may mean you could spend time in jail — or probation may be an option. A skilled defense attorney will work closely with you to develop a strong defense strategy aimed at keeping you out of jail if possible.
  • Will you lose your driver's license? If so, for how long? — Your driver's license may be suspended for one month, three months, six months or longer depending on factors such as (1) whether you are under or over age 21; (2) whether you agree or refuse to submit to chemical blood alcohol content tests (breath, urine or blood tests); (3) what level of blood alcohol content tests indicate if you are tested; (4) whether you have had previous DUI convictions and (5) whether you agree to enter the state's ignition interlock device program. A qualified lawyer on your side will fight to help you keep your driving privileges as the first order of business.
  • What is the court process for a DUI case? — A DUI case in South Carolina has two main processes: the administrative case with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will determine whether you can keep your driver's license, and the criminal case, which will determine whether you will end up with a conviction and a misdemeanor or felony record.
  • How much will a DUI cost you? — With court fees and legal fees, you can expect to spend several thousand dollars. Details will vary depending on how straightforward or complex the case becomes.
  • Will you be required to install an ignition interlock device? — You may be given the opportunity to choose to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car for a period of time, as a condition of restoring your driving privileges.
  • What if you refused the breath test? — Assuming the traffic stop was justified, if you refused the breath test, you will likely get an automatic driver's license suspension to start with. If you are fortunate, your defense attorney may prove that a police officer stopped you without probable cause — and your case may be dismissed.
  • What if you blew over the legal limit? — The legal limit depends on whether you are under or over age 21. Drivers under age 21 may lose their driving privileges until age 21 if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured as .02 or higher. Drivers over age 21 may have licenses suspended, with the length of time depending on if the BAC is measured at .08-.09, .10-.15 or higher. Penalties are more severe when BAC is .16 or higher and may include permanent revocation of one's driver's license for repeat offenses. (Reinstatement may be an option after several years).
  • Will you be fired? Will you be able to get another job if convicted of DUI? — The answers to these questions vary greatly depending on the employer, the type of work, the severity of the charges and so on. Commercial driver's license holders (such as truckers) are likely to lose jobs that involve driving. Professionals such as physicians and nurses often have trouble renewing their professional licenses after a DUI conviction. If this is a concern, talk to your defense attorney as soon as possible about representing you before your professional accrediting association.
  • Is a DUI a felony? — An uncomplicated DUI is typically recorded as a misdemeanor, but if someone was injured or killed, or if a DUI conviction is for a third offense or worse, it may be considered a felony. An extra-high blood alcohol content may also lead to a felony conviction.
  • How long does a DUI conviction stay on your record? — Generally, a criminal record remains on the books until and unless it is expunged. However, DUIs are not eligible for expungement in South Carolina.
  • How long does a DUI stay on your driving record? — It stays for 10 years.
  • Does a DUI show up on a background check? It will show up for nearly any background check as a misdemeanor or felony; for more specifics, ask a lawyer.
  • Can a DUI be expunged? No.
  • How long after an accident can you get a DUI? — If a law enforcement officer did not cite you for DUI at the scene of an accident, you are unlikely to be charged unless:
    • You were injured and in the course of your evaluation and treatment, medical personnel determine your BAC was above the legal limit, or
    • Someone else (a pedestrian, passenger or motorist) was injured or killed, and it is subsequently determined that you had been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Additional DUI Questions & Answers

Can an Accident Be A Reasonable Suspicion for a DUI?

To give you blood alcohol tests and see if you have been drinking, the police need to have reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence. You need to be aware that being involved in just about any accident can meet this criteria. While most drivers will not be tested just because they were in a wreck, the police could use it to justify the testing.

This is perhaps most important to note for accidents that were not your own fault. If the someone else runs a red light and hits you, but the police then think you seem like you've been drinking, they may test you. It does not necessarily matter that you did not cause the accident, and you can't get out of the test on those grounds alone.

You can refuse the tests, of course, but you then face a different set of penalties for the refusal.

As noted, most drivers are not tested, but the police typically look for other signs at the accident site. This could include the smell of alcohol, the presence of empty cans or bottle in the car or simply the way you're acting. Your actions may be odd due to having just been involved in the crash, of course, but they could still spur a larger investigation to see if you were also drinking.

If needed, the police are allowed to detain you on a temporary basis while doing this investigation.

Those who have been detained or arrested on suspicion of a DUI must know all of the legal options they have.

How Does Alcohol Impact You as You Continue to Drink?

The reason that the legal limit for drinking as been set at a blood alcohol concentration of .08 is that alcohol impacts you differently as your BAC climbs. This does not mean that you won't feel the impact at all if it's below .08, however. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, relaxation, loss of judgement and a slight impairment of your ability to follow moving objects can start at just .02.

As you get up to .05, you can start to feel the effects more drastically, and you may even lose just a little bit of muscle control. You also won't be as alert, your judgment may be altered, and you could begin to have trouble steering. You'll still feel pretty good at this point.

The next step is .08, and this is when things really begin to change, as your vision, coordination and muscle control all drop. You may have a hard time concentrating, and you can even start losing memories at this point. Your perception can be off, and your ability to react to things around you could drop significantly -- which is why this is viewed as the line for drivers, who must react quickly to changes on the road.

By the time you get up to .15, you could begin to feel sick. That good, warm feeling from before may be gone, and you could have serious trouble controlling yourself. It becomes hard to pay attention and your ability to process what's happening around your vehicle falls even further.

If you've been given drunk driving charges, you must know what legal options you have. It's important to look at exactly how the police in South Carolina knew that you were impaired, such as whether they made you do field sobriety tests or used a breath test.

Can Older Drivers be Subject to Intoxication After Just 1 Drink?

For many people, it's not uncommon to enjoy a drink with dinner or while gathering with friends. Consuming only one alcoholic beverage might be seen as a way to be responsible. However, a study may prove to be problematic for people who believe they are doing the right thing in this sort of situation.

Researchers at the University of Florida took a look at the effect that having one alcoholic beverage has on a person's ability to drive. The study included two groups, one with people between ages 25 and 36 and the other was populated by people between 55 and 70 years old. Shockingly, the study revealed that older drivers showed signs of intoxication after having only one drink.

After consuming a single alcoholic beverage, participants in the study were asked to use a driving simulator. Researchers looked for perceived signs of intoxication, such as ability to maintain speed, stay within a lane and handle the steering wheel. Older drivers didn't perform as well as their younger counterparts. These are some of the signs that police officers might consider to be probable cause for pulling a driver over.

One really important aspect of this case is that none of the participants in the study had a blood-alcohol content at or greater than 0.08 percent. Even though no one would have been legally intoxicated according to a blood-alcohol test, some still showed signs of impairment.

In South Carolina, it's possible for law enforcement officials to pursue driving under the influence charges even if the driver is below the 0.08 percent legal limit. If the arresting officer has reason to believe that driver is impaired without the legally defined level of intoxication, then DUI charges could stand in court.

Even when a person intentionally limits alcohol intake, he or she could face criminal charges. This study exposes a difficult situation that could ensnare people who were trying to responsible.

Visit our articles and blog sections for additional DUI-related resources and information.

Speak With A Straightforward, Dedicated DUI Defense Lawyer

Our South Carolina DUI attorneys are highly knowledgeable about DUI laws and the DataMaster DMT breath test machine, which is used to measure blood alcohol content (BAC) at the police station. It is the only breath test result that is admissible in court, but we know its flaws and inaccuracies. We know how to defend your case, seek to keep your license, minimize the consequences, guard your driving privileges and protect your future.

Please call us at 843-352-4149 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.

Our firm can defend you against any DUI charge and on appeal of a driving under the influence conviction. Contact us to gain a full understanding of your legal options from one of our dedicated lawyers.