South Carolina Cracks Down on DUI

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South Carolina recently passed DUI law changes that more harshly punish drunk drivers with higher blood alcohol content levels. The Law Office of Richard J. Breibart, LLC offers details about the possible punishment those driving under the influence might receive under the new laws.

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South Carolina was known as having some of the most lenient punishments for driving under the influence (DUI) in the country. As the number of alcohol-related fatalities in automobile accidents climbed, however, the state legislature decided that enough was enough and passed sweeping changes to South Carolina's DUI laws in 2008. These changes came into effect February 10, 2009.

Under the 2009 changes, penalties for DUI convictions are determined based on the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) level. The higher the BAC, the more severe the possible punishments. An outline of these changes is provided below.

First DUI Conviction

The court cannot suspend the fine for a first-time conviction or offer a lower amount than required by state law.

BAC 0.08-0.09

  • 2-30 days in jail OR 48 hours of community service
  • $400 fine

BAC 0.10-0.15

  • 3-30 days in jail OR 72 hours of community service
  • $500 fine

BAC 0.16 and above

  • 30-60 days in jail OR 30 days of community service
  • $1,000 fine

Second DUI Conviction

In overhauling the DUI laws, the legislature removed the possibility of performing community service in lieu of jail time for second-time and subsequent DUI offenders. The court also may not suspend the fine for second-time offenders, but it may lower the fine to $1100. Second-time and subsequent offenders also will be required to serve minimum mandatory jail time and are subject to suspension and surrender of their vehicle registrations and license plates.

BAC 0.08-0.09

  • Mandatory minimum 5 days in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 1 year in jail
  • $2,100-$5,100 fine

BAC 0.10-0.15

  • Mandatory minimum 30 days in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 2 years in jail
  • $2,500-$5,500 fine

BAC 0.16 and above

  • Mandatory minimum 90 days in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 3 years in jail
  • $3,500-$6,500 fine

Third DUI Conviction

BAC 0.08-0.09

  • Mandatory minimum 60 days in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 3 years in jail
  • $3,800-$6,300 fine

BAC 0.10-0.15

  • Mandatory minimum 90 days in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 4 years in jail
  • $5,000-$7,000 fine

BAC 0.16 and above

  • Mandatory minimum 6 months in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 5 years in jail
  • $7,500-$10,000 fine

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Conviction

BAC 0.08-0.09

  • Mandatory minimum 1 year in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 5 years in jail

BAC 0.10-0.15

  • Mandatory minimum 2 years in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 6 years in jail

BAC 0.16 and above

  • Mandatory minimum 3 years in jail
  • May be sentenced up to 7 years in jail

Refusal to Take a Breathalyzer

Anyone suspected of drunk driving who refuses to take the breathalyzer will have his or her license automatically suspended for six months (under the previous law, it was three months). Anyone who has a BAC reading of 0.15 or greater also automatically loses his or her driver's license for six months. The length of license suspension time increases with each subsequent DUI conviction. For example, a second-time offender who refused to take the breathalyzer each time will have his or her license automatically suspended for nine months.

Felony DUI

A felony DUI may now be charged in any alcohol-related accident that causes great bodily injury or death to another person where the injury or death is caused by the actions of the impaired driver. "Great bodily injury" is defined under the statute as injury that "creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ."

The fines for causing great bodily injury range from $5,100-$10,100. Jail time can range from a mandatory minimum of 30 days to 15 years.
Drivers convicted of felony DUI in accidents that led to the death of another, however, face much more severe penalties: up to $25,000 in fines and up to 25 years in prison. Judges must impose the mandatory minimum sentences and may not offer probation to those convicted of felony DUI.

Mandatory Counseling

Even first-time offenders now must successfully complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program certified by the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services as a condition of their sentence for a DUI conviction. Before enrolling in a program, each DUI offender is evaluated to determine whether an education course, treatment or both are necessary. DUI offenders are required to pay for the program out of pocket, which may cost up to $2500. Those who fail to enroll in an acceptable program within 30 days of their conviction may be held in contempt of court.

Underage Drinkers

Drivers under 21 years of age who are convicted of DUI will have their driver's licenses suspended for six months for a first time conviction. If they are convicted of DUI a second time within five years of the first conviction, they will lose their licenses for one year.

Drive Carefully

Before getting behind the wheel, consider South Carolina's harsh punishments for DUI. If you have been arrested for DUI, be sure to consult an attorney for advice.

About The Law Office of Richard J. Breibart, LLC
http://www.breibartlaw.com/
With over 50 years of combined legal experience, our criminal defense and civil litigation attorneys are about more than just knowledge of the law. At the Law Office of Richard J. Breibart, LLC, located in Lexington, South Carolina, we take pride in the commitment and dedication we offer every person who walks through our door. When you have practiced law as long as we have, you see how legal problems impact the lives of people, how they effect families, careers, and dreams. Recognizing that when people turn to us they have a great deal riding on how we handle their case.

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