In South Carolina, no matter whether you have been convicted one or more times of driving under the influence, or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol concentration, you will likely have to pay fines, serve jail time, and endure a driver's license suspension as part of your sentence. A conviction does not necessarily mean you have a felony on your record; however, sometimes, certain factors and circumstances may cause you to be charged with a felony DUI, regardless of whether it is your first DUI offense.
For instance, if you, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, drive your vehicle and are involved in an accident that is either fatal or causes great bodily injury to someone else, then you can be found guilty of felony DUI. Great bodily injury is defined as an injury or injuries that are potentially fatal or that cause severe or serious permanent disfigurement, or extensive impairment or loss of function of any body part or organ.
Examples of accidents that result in a felony DUI charge include:
- While driving under the influence, you cross the center line and hit an oncoming vehicle. The driver of the oncoming vehicle suffers a traumatic brain injury and is permanently impaired.
- While driving under the influence, you are involved in an accident that fatally injures the passenger in your vehicle.
- While driving under the influence, your vehicle jumps a curb and hits a person waiting at a bus stop. The victim's leg is pinned under your vehicle which leads to eventual amputation.
If you are convicted of felony DUI under these or similar circumstances, your penalties must include:
- If great bodily injury is caused by the DUI accident: fines ranging from $5100 to $10,100, and jail time ranging from thirty days to fifteen years; and
- If the DUI accident is fatal: fines ranging from $10,100 and $25,100, and jail time ranging from one year to twenty-five years.
Also, if you are convicted under this law, you will not be eligible for probation, your driver's license will be suspended, and after you are released from prison, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for three or five years, depending on the circumstances.
While no DUI charge should not be taken lightly, if you are involved in an accident that causes serious injuries or death to someone else, you can be charged with a felony. With a felony DUI conviction comes hefty fines and significant jail time, among other penalties. A criminal conviction on your record can also adversely affect your day to day life, including your ability to obtain and keep a job or qualify for a student loan. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with DUI, it is important that you speak with an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Harwell Law Firm, P.A., can review the facts and evidence in your case and advise you of your rights and responsibilities so that you can make an informed decision as to how you would like to proceed in your case.