In South Carolina you can be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that your ability to drive a vehicle is significantly impaired. It makes no difference whether your blood alcohol content is less than 0.08 percent. In fact, South Carolina has a separate offense of driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), where your alcohol concentration does matter. It is a crime to drive a vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or greater.
Regardless of whether you are convicted of DUAC or DUI, the sentencing penalties are generally the same. For a first time DUAC or DUI, depending on your impairment and/or blood alcohol concentration, you can be subject to fines ranging from $400 and $1000, jail time ranging from 48 hours to ninety days, and license suspension for at least six months. However, these sentencing ranges do not take into account circumstances that may enhance your sentence.
Sentence enhancements are generally facts and circumstances that allow a sentencing judge to enhance, or increase, the sentence that ordinarily applies to your crime. Some of the factors or circumstances that can increase your sentence include the following:
- Your blood alcohol concentration - if your BAC is greater than 0.10 percent, or greater than 0.16 percent, you may be subject to increased penalties;
- Whether you were involved in an accident;
- If you were in an accident, whether someone suffered serious injuries or death;
- Whether there was a passenger or a child passenger in your car - a child under the age of sixteen can also result in a child endangerment charge;
- Whether you were driving a commercial motor vehicle - if you have a commercial driver's license, you may not drive a commercial vehicle while having any measurable amount of alcohol in your body, and if you have even just a BAC of 0.04, you can be disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle; and
- Whether you have been previously convicted of DUAC or DUI - the more DUACs or DUIs on your record within the last ten years, the harsher the penalties. A second DUAC or DUI conviction can include penalties of fines ranging from $2100 and $6500, jail time of five days up to three years, and a license suspension of one year. A sentence for a third DUAC or DUI conviction can include fines ranging from $3800 to $10,000, jail time ranging from sixty days to five years in jail, and license suspensions of either one or four years, depending on the circumstances. Fourth and subsequent DUAC and DUI convictions are considered felonies and have sentences that include imprisonment ranging from one year to seven years, depending on the circumstances, and permanent license revocation.
As the foregoing illustrates, you can see that a charge of DUAC or DUI should not be taken lightly. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you can be subject to large fines, lengthy prison sentences, and license suspension or revocation, not to mention the affects that a conviction may have on your everyday ability to obtain a job, student loan, or even to get around town. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with DUAC/DUI, the attorneys at Harwell Law Firm, P.A., recommend that you consult with an experienced attorney right away.