Driving under influence (DUI) is considered a serious offense in South Carolina. If you receive a DUI citation for the first time and it doesn’t involve a crash or an injury, you may get off with light penalties. However, as a DUI defense attorney will tell you, penalties add up in subsequent DUI citations. If there is property damage or great bodily harm involved, you are charged with aggravated DUI which carries harsher penalties.
It is important to understand the penalties for a DUI offense. If you are charged with one, you are better able to defend yourself with this knowledge in possession.
First Offense DUI Criminal Penalties
South Carolina has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. This means that if you have BAC at 0.08% or higher, you are not legally allowed to operate a vehicle. If you are under 21, the limit is much lower, set at a mere 0.02%. This essentially means that any amount of alcohol consumed before driving when aged below 21 will qualify as DUI.
BAC is an important factor to consider when understanding first offense DUI penalties. The actual penalties for a DUI charge depend directly on the BAC level of a driver. If the BAC is below 0.10%, for instance, the penalties are less severe compared to when BAC is above 0.10%. Following is a breakdown of the penalties for 1st DUI offense.
BAC under 0.10%: If you are charged with first DUI misdemeanor and your BAC is below 0.10%, you will typically face a jail time of 48 hours to 30 days. You are also required to pay a $400 fine in most cases.
BAC between 0.10% and 0.16%: If your BAC is above 0.10% but below 0.16%, you face stiffer penalties for a first DUI offense. In this case, the minimum jail time is increased from 48 hours to 7 days, with a maximum prison time set at 30 days. You also pay a slightly higher fine of $500.
BAC above 0.16%: If your BAC is above 0.16% at the time of your arrest, you face a minimum jail time of 30 days, up to a maximum jail term of 90 days. The court also imposes a fine of $1,000.
First Offense DUI License Suspension
In addition to the criminal penalties, you also face license suspension after being charged with first offense DUI. Your driver’s license is automatically suspended at the time of your DUI arrest. You are then required to get a temporary alcohol license from the DMV. If you think that your license suspension is unfair, you can apply for an administrative hearing within 30 days.
For 1st DUI, the suspension period is typically six months. You may qualify for a provisional license during this period. However, if your BAC is at or above 0.15%, you can’t seek a provisional license. You also face another month of suspension in such a case.
If you are charged with first DUI offense, you are also required to undergo a drug and alcohol treatment program. Typically, this is the state-mandated Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). Completing the ADSAP is a requirement before you can apply for license reinstatement.
In the case of first DUI offense, the court may allow you to perform community service in place of the jail time. So if you are sentenced to 3 days in jail, you can instead be allowed to perform 3 days of community service. With a good DUI attorney at your side, you can choose this option and effectively avoid any jail time in a first DUI conviction.
Ignition Interlock Device
It is rare for a court to order the installation of an ignition interlock device in a first DUI offense. However, if your BAC is found to be at or above 0.15%, you may be required to install the device for 6 months.
Hiring a DUI Lawyer For Your First Offense DUI
If you have been involved in a DUI case, you need a professional attorney at your side. If you face DUI charges, an attorney can help you seek minimum penalties and explore options like community service in place of jail time. If you have been a victim of a DUI accident, an attorney will help you seek compensatory damages from the party at fault.
Here at Ayers, Smithdeal & Bettis P.C., we closely work with our clients. Whether you are facing DUI charges or seeking compensation for a DUI accident, we have got you covered. Contact us for a FREE consultation with our attorneys and let us look into your case.