While driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina is a serious offense; there are those people who assume that a DUI conviction equals a felony on their record. But, this may not always be the case. In this article we answer the long running question of what qualifies as a DUI felony versus a DUI misdemeanor.
When Can You Be Charged with a DUI Felony in South Carolina?
There are several instances where you could be charged with a DUI felony.
If you are under the influence while operating a vehicle, then cause great bodily harm or death to someone, you may be charged with a felony. Great bodily harm is an injury with a substantial risk of death or injury that causes permanent and severe disfigurement or loss or impairment of an organ or bodily functions.
For example, a DUI felony can be imposed when:
- You are driving under the influence and run someone over who is walking along the road’s shoulder and that person suffers serious injuries;
- You are driving under the influence and are involved in an accident with another person, and it causes serious bodily injuries to that person;
- You are driving under the influence, and there is a passenger in your vehicle. As a result of an accident, the passenger suffers serious bodily harm.
South Carolina DUI Regulations
In our state, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is 0.08% for drivers older than 21 years of age, and 0.02% for those under 21 years old. Commercial drivers have a set limit of 0.04%.
When you have a driver’s license in South Carolina, it is regarded as automatic consent to be tested if stopped by the police. This law is known as implied consent and may be used by an official to test you if they suspect that you are driving while intoxicated. If your BAC is over the limit, points will be added to your record, and your license will be suspended or even revoked if you are found guilty of DUI.
What Actions Are Taken Against a DUI for Drivers Over 21 Years of Age?
If you are older than 21 and you are pulled over and found to have a BAC higher than 0.08%, you could face criminal charges and administrative actions. If the DUI is subjected to criminal action, it is classed as such:
- A first offense is considered a Class B Misdemeanor and can lead to at least two days of imprisonment or public service, or a maximum of one-month jail time and a fine of $400. The driver’s license of the offender may also be suspended for up to six months.
- A second offense will result in five days to one-year jail time or one month of public service and a fine of up to $5,000. Your license will be suspended for 12 months.
- A third offense is a felony that will result in jail time for anywhere between a period of 2 months to 3 years and a fine of up to $6,300. Your license can be suspended for up to 24 months.
What Actions Are Taken Against a DUI for Drivers Under 21 Years of Age?
If you are under 21 years of age and you are found guilty of driving under the influence, the consequences could be:
- If you are convicted under the law of “minor in possession or other alcohol offenses” while driving, your license could be revoked or suspended.
- The penalties listed for drivers over the age of 21 could also apply to minors if convicted of a DUI.
What Administrative Actions Can Be Taken Against a DUI?
In South Carolina, there are administrative implications as well as criminal laws against a DUI. If you are charged with driving under the influence, you have 30 days to request a hearing against the Administrative License Revocation. If your suspension is overturned, your license will then be restored right away.
However, if your appeal is rejected, your suspension will take effect, and you will have to attend an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program before it can be reinstated. If you are a first time DUI offender, once you have enrolled in the program, you may be eligible for a provisional license. But, subsequent offenders could be given restricted driving privileges, which is done at the DMV’s discretion.
There is a range of other scenarios for a felony DUI in South Carolina. The common denominator, though, is that if you drive under the influence and cause serious bodily injury or death to another person, you can be charged with a DUI felony.
Can Your License Be Reinstated After a DUI Revocation or Suspension?
If a DUI charge turns into a conviction, your license will be either suspended or canceled, which will mean that your driving privileges revoked away, and you must then apply with the DMV to have your license reinstated once the revocation or suspension period ends.
In this case, you will have to take your driving test again, including the knowledge test, road test, and vision test. Failure to complete these requirements will mean your license will remain revoked or suspended.
To complete the requirements for license reinstatement, you are required to prove that you have successfully completed the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program or a similar program. The course costs $500 and can take up to 12 months to complete. You may need to pay an additional $2000 for addiction treatment, and you will be required to pay a reinstatement fee of $100 for your license. It is also up to you to maintain proof of financial responsibility by filing an SR-22.
If convicted of DUI in South Carolina, the court could also order that an ignition interlock device be placed on any vehicle you operate for the purpose of breathalyzer tests before the vehicle can be driven.
Can a DUI Charge Be Expunged from Your Record?
Felony DUIs are not expungable, and nor are misdemeanor DUIs.
If you are convicted of a DUI felony, a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney in South Carolina, will be able to explain your rights to you. With legal representation from The Jeffcoat Firm, you have an experienced DUI attorney in your corner, always striving to provide you with the best solution to your particular situation.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.