If you have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or driving with an unlawful amount of alcohol in your system, chances are that you had your driver’s license suspended and thus lost your driving privileges for a period of time. However, if you have been convicted of driving under the influence three times within the last three years, you can be labeled as an habitual offender. If you are designated as an habitual offender under South Carolina law, you can lose your driving privileges for a five-year period.
Not only can driving under the influence convictions add up to an habitual offender designation, but if you are convicted of any three major traffic violations within three years, you can be labeled an habitual offender. In addition to a conviction for driving under the influence, or driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, other major traffic violations include:
- Driving with a suspended license;
- Reckless driving;
- Voluntary manslaughter that is the result of operating your motor vehicle;
- Involuntary manslaughter that is the result of operating your motor vehicle;
- Reckless homicide that is the result of operating your motor vehicle;
- Failing to stop after an accident that results in injury or death;
- Any felony offense that arises out of operating a motor vehicle, such as a felony DUI.
Even if you have convictions for minor traffic offenses, such as speeding, or failing to stop for a traffic signal, if you have ten convictions for minor offenses within ten years, you can still be labeled as an habitual offender.
If you have the requisite number of convictions, you will usually be notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will have the opportunity to challenge the designation, particularly if you believe that the number of violations you have were miscounted, or should not have counted towards the total convictions.
If you are designated as an habitual offender, as mentioned above, your license will be suspended for five years. However, after your license has been suspended for two years, you will be able to apply to the South Carolina DMV to get your driver’s license back. In order to qualify for license reinstatement, you must not be considered an habitual offender in any other state; you must not have driven any vehicle since your license suspension began; you cannot have any arrests for alcohol or drug violations since your license suspension began; you cannot have any traffic violations since the suspension began; and you cannot have any other mandatory license suspensions that have not yet reached their end date.
It is considered a felony if you are caught driving while your license is suspended for being an habitual offender, and if convicted, you can be prohibited from ever driving in South Carolina again.
If you or loved one have been convicted multiple times for major or even minor traffic offenses and your driving privileges are at risk due to being designated as an habitual offender, it is important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Any criminal charge, no matter how minor, should not be taken lightly as a conviction can result in lengthy jail sentences, hefty fines, and other penalties. Consulting with an experienced Myrtle Beach DUI Attorney right away is essential, and the attorneys at Harwell Law Firm, P.A., can review the facts and evidence in your criminal case, advise you of your rights and responsibilities under the law, discuss your options, and help you determine the best strategy for fighting your criminal charge.