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South Carolina DUI: What to Know

No one starts off the day planning to get pulled over for a DUI but when a bad decision ends up in flashing lights, it can leave a lasting impact on a driver’s record.

Since, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is a good idea to know how South Carolina treats DUI before getting behind the wheel

SC legal BAC limits

Under South Carolina law, it is illegal for a person to drive if their “faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired” by drugs or alcohol.

An impaired driver can be convicted on this standard at any alcohol level. However, state laws set several legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limits that are de facto criminal:

  • Under 21 years old: .02%
  • Adults 21 and over: .08%
  • Commercial drivers: .04%

Higher BAC and the repeat offenses increase the penalties. Any offenses within the past decade are taken into account.

For example, a first offence with a BAC above .08% will result in between two days and three months in jail, a fine between $400 and $1,000, and a six-month license suspension. A fourth offense, however, would net the offender between one and seven years in jail, a fine up to $10,000, and a permanent license suspension. In each scenario, the minimum penalties are higher if the driver’s BAC is at least .10% or .16%.

Alternative penalties for drunk driving in SC

Fines and incarceration are the most widely known DUI penalties but they are not the only consequences.

Public service

First offenders may avoid jail time if the court decides to offer the choice to substitute public service for jail time. In that case, for example, instead of serving a 48-hour minimum jail sentence, the offender would serve 48-hours of public service.

Ignition interlock device

Offenders may need to have an ignition interlock device installed. The vehicle will not start unless the driver blows into the device and has a breath alcohol concentration below .020%

First offenders may face an ignition interlock if they blow .15% or higher. Any second or subsequent offenders must also have the device installed. Once the device is installed, the driver must visit the manufacturer’s service center every 60 days so that the device can be calibrated and the stored information can be downloaded. They are also charged a $30 monthly fee for administration.

The driver receives a restricted license and is only allowed to drive a vehicle that has the interlock device installed; driving another vehicle is a crime. Refusal to participate extends driver’s license suspension for an additional three years.

Can I refuse to blow?

By driving on SC roads, drivers have implicitly agreed to submit to a test if pulled over for a suspected DUI. Anyone who refuses to take a test is subject to a fine and a license suspension of at least six months.

Achieve your best case result

When a driver is pulled over for a DUI, the clock starts ticking. For example, drivers have 30 days to request a hearing. Having experienced counsel for these steps can improve the chances of getting the license reinstated and potentially reduce fines and jail time.

If you are in need of DUI defense in South Carolina, we encourage you to reach out to Jeffcoat Criminal Defense Lawyers, conveniently based in Lexington. For a free consultation with criminal defense attorney, please call us toll free at 888-612-7523.


  1. South Carolina Legislature, Title 56 – Motor Vehicles,
  2. South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, Ignition Interlock Device Program: Understanding the IID Program,

Warning: This Does Not Constitute Legal Advice. Do not rely on the accuracy of this information because laws are subject to change. You are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney in any legal matter. If you take action in your case without an attorney, it may negatively affect your legal rights.

Disclaimer: This information does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided in this document is not legal advice, cannot be cited as legal authority, and cannot replace the advice of an attorney in South Carolina.

Michael Jeffcoat-Jeffcoat Firm founder and attorney



Michael R. Jeffcoat is a criminal defense attorney in South Carolina with over 2 decades of experience, our aggressive criminal defense legal team can help you with misdemeanor and felony offenses. Mr. Jeffcoat strives to keep all his clients informed at all stages of their case.

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