It is no secret that South Carolina law prohibits drivers from driving motor vehicles while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. However, what you may not know is that under current South Carolina law, you can still drive a moped while you are impaired or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs without worrying about being charged or penalized the same way as someone who drives a car, bus, truck, or even a motorcycle. This may be because although mopeds are very similar to motorcycles, they typically are smaller, less powerful, and are only capable of being driven at a relatively slow speed.
South Carolina DUI law requires that to be convicted of driving under the influence, you must be driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or illegal drugs, and that you must be impaired in such a way that your normal faculties are not functioning properly. The South Carolina definition of motor vehicle, as it is currently written, specifically excludes mopeds, meaning that if you drive your moped while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you cannot legally be charged with driving under the influence. Moreover, if you have been convicted of driving under the influence and your driver’s license is suspended, because a regular driver’s license is not required to drive a moped in South Carolina, there is nothing preventing you from getting on your moped and driving around. However, it is important to note that just because moped drivers cannot be charged with DUI does not mean that they are exempt from other traffic rules and regulations. For example, you can still be found at fault if you cause an accident while driving your moped, whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Interestingly, this so-called, moped DUI loop hole may be closed sooner rather than later. The South Carolina legislature, recognizing that the moped loop hole is a safety hazard for South Carolina’s roadways, hopes to place more restrictions on moped drivers. In January of this year, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that will place new restrictions on moped riders, including requiring moped drivers to register their mopeds, to carry liability insurance, and to wear reflective vests while riding. Importantly, the bill also provides that moped drivers cannot ride their moped if they have lost their driving privileges because of a DUI conviction.
With major changes to South Carolina law regarding mopeds on the horizon, it is important to stay up to date on those changes, particularly if you regularly drive a moped. Regardless of the fact that you currently cannot be charged with DUI while driving your moped, it is possible to be charged with other crimes, particularly if you are involved in or caused a severe accident while driving your moped. If you or loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime as the result of operating your moped, or even if you have been charged with driving under the influence, it is important that you consult with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal defense DUI attorney right away. Any criminal charge should not be taken lightly as a conviction can result in lengthy jail sentences, hefty fines, and other penalties. Consulting with an experienced attorney right away is important, 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.