There are many different types of DUI offenses in SC, including the “traditional” DUI offense which may be first, second, third, or fourth offense and for which the penalties change based on the breathalyzer (Datamaster) result.
SC also has a “per-se” DUI offense, felony DUI offenses for when someone is severely injured or killed, and a “zero-tolerance” DUI offense for minors. There are other SC offenses that are not DUI but may be related to a DUI offense – like the DUI-specific child endangerment law. reckless driving, careless operation, or vehicular homicide.
Below, I’ll go through each of the different types of DUI offenses in SC and briefly explain what they are and what is required for a conviction.
Different Types of DUI – Driving Under the Influence Offenses in SC
SC’s DUI law is found at SC Code Section 56-5-2930:
It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.
SC’s basic driving under the influence offense, or DUI, can be charged in different ways that affect the potential punishment as well as the proof required at trial depending on how many prior DUI offenses a person has, the breathalyzer test result, or whether a person is alleged to be intoxicated on drugs rather than alcohol.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
DUI does not mean “under the influence of alcohol.” It can mean driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.
It does not matter if the drugs are legal or illegal. It doesn’t even matter if you have a prescription – if a person is intoxicated on any kind of drug “to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired,” and the State can prove it, that’s DUI.
First, Second, Third, or Fourth Offense DUI in SC
Based on the number of prior convictions for DUI, the penalties for DUI in SC can range from a maximum of 30 days in jail (and a minimum of 48 hours) for a DUI first offense with a breathalyzer result less than .10 (or no breathalyzer result) to a maximum of seven years in prison (and a minimum of three years in prison) for a DUI fourth or subsequent offense with a breathalyzer result greater than .16.
There are Different Penalties Based on the Breathalyzer Result
As I noted above, the potential penalties can also change based on the breathalyzer test result.
If you refuse the breathalyzer, or if you take it and the result is less than .10, you will be in the lowest sentencing range for that DUI offense. On the other hand, if you take the breathalyzer and the result is greater than .16, you will be in the highest sentencing range for that DUI offense.
Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) in SC
SC also has a “per-se” DUI offense, called “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration,” or DUAC.
SC Code Section 56-5-2933 contains SC’s per se statute:
It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while his alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more…
The State does not have to prove impairment under the per se statute – they only have to prove that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher. This means that you will only be charged with DUAC if you took the breathalyzer or if you provided a blood or urine sample…
Other Types of DUI Offenses in SC
In addition to the “traditional” DUI and DUAC, there are other types of DUI offenses in SC like felony DUI and a “zero tolerance” DUI offense that is specifically for persons under 21 years of age.
Felony Driving Under the Influence in SC
SC’s felony DUI offenses are found in SC Code Section 56-5-2945. Felony DUI requires proof of more than just driving under the influence – your negligent driving must have caused someone’s death while you were driving under the influence.
Felony DUI in SC requires proof that:
- The person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- While the person was driving; and
- They committed an act forbidden by the law or neglected a duty imposed by the law;
- Which proximately caused great bodily injury or death to another person.
Felony DUI with Great Bodily Injury
“Great bodily injury” means “bodily injury which 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.”
Felony DUI with great bodily injury in SC carries a penalty of 30 days to 15 years in prison.
Felony DUI with Death
When death results, felony DUI carries a penalty of from one year to 25 years in prison.
Zero Tolerance – a DUI Offense for Minors
You may have seen the billboards or TV advertisements announcing that SC’s DUI laws are “zero tolerance.”
It’s a lie – a false advertising campaign designed to 1) stop people from drinking and driving by exaggerating SC’s DUI law; and 2) prejudice potential jury pools by misrepresenting what SC’s DUI laws actually say.
SC DUI laws are not zero tolerance. As in every state, it is legal to drink and drive in SC. In SC, it is illegal to drink to the point where your “faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired,” for DUI, or to simply have a BAC greater than .08, for DUAC.
SC does, however, have a “zero tolerance” DUI law, found in SC Code Section 56-1-286, that applies only to persons younger than 21. If you are younger than 21 years of age, the officer can choose to charge you under the zero tolerance law, in which case your license will be suspended if your BAC is greater than .02 (less than one drink, for most people).
The penalty under the zero tolerance law is a license suspension only, and, if the officer chooses to charge you under the zero tolerance law, they cannot later charge you with the traditional DUI offense or DUAC.
Child Endangerment Related to DUI
SC has a separate offense for child endangerment, found in SC Code Section 56-5-2947, that only applies when a person is convicted of DUI, DUAC, felony DUI, or failure to stop for a blue light.
If a person commits one of the above offenses while a child younger than 16 is in the vehicle, they can also be convicted of child endangerment, and the potential punishment will be as much as one-half the maximum potential punishment for the underlying offense.
Different Types of DUI Offenses in Other States
You may have heard terms like “DWI” or “OWI” before, especially if you have moved to SC from another state.
Each state has its own versions of driving under the influence offenses which may have different elements than SC DUI offenses and may require different forms of proof. Some examples include:
- DWI: driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired;
- OWI: operating while intoxicated;
- OVI: operating a vehicle while intoxicated;
- OMVI: operating a motor vehicle while impaired;
- DUII: driving under the influence of intoxicants;
- DUII-CS: driving under the influence of intoxicants – controlled substances;
- OUI: operating under the influence;
- DWAI: driving while ability impaired; or.
- ADWI: aggravated driving while intoxicated.
SC DUI Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach
Attorney Daniel A. Selwa is a DUI defense attorney who accepts cases in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Georgetown, and Horry County, SC.