No matter what, getting convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina is expensive. Even for a standard first-time offense involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, a conviction can lead to almost $1,000 in fines and fees plus increased insurance premiums for several years—along with loss of your driver’s license and community service or jail time.
But, there are several factors that can increase the costs of a DUI. If your case involves any of these factors, you will want to speak with a lawyer promptly to make sure you understand the risks you are facing. While it is important to hire a lawyer in any case (and there are lots of ways a lawyer can help you), it is especially important when South Carolina’s enhanced penalties are on the table.
What Are the Factors that Can Increase the Costs of a DUI?
So, what are the factors that can increase the costs of a DUI in South Carolina? Here are seven examples:
1. Your BAC was 0.10 Percent or Above
The penalties for a DUI in South Carolina start to increase when your BAC is 0.10 percent or above. If your BAC was 0.10 to 0.15 percent, you are facing an additional $100 fine and a minimum of 72 hours of community service or jail time. If your BAC was over 0.15 percent, you are facing an additional $600 fine and a minimum of 30 days of community service or jail time.
2. This Isn’t Your First DUI
The costs of a DUI conviction increase even more if this isn’t your first drunk driving arrest. For second (and subsequent) DUI convictions, the fines climb into the thousands of dollars. You can also face thousands of dollars in additional assessments and surcharges. You are also looking at anywhere from five days to five years of jail time (or possibly community service), along with a minimum one-year driver’s license suspension. For a third or subsequent offense within 10 years, the state can also confiscate your vehicle.
3. You Are Being Charged with a Felony DUI
While most DUIs are misdemeanor offenses in South Carolina, you can be charged with a felony DUI if you cause an accident while driving under the influence. In felony DUI cases, the potential penalties include:
- “A mandatory fine of $5,100 to $10,100 ($21,119.50 with assessments and surcharges) and imprisonment from 30 days to 15 years when great bodily injury occurs.”
- “A mandatory fine of $10,100 to $25,100 ($52,244.50 with assessments and surcharges) and imprisonment from one to 25 years when death occurs.”
A felony conviction carries additional collateral consequences in South Carolina as well. While all DUI convictions stay on your record for life in South Carolina, having a felony conviction on your criminal record will have a much greater negative impact on your life.
4. You Refused the Breath Test
In South Carolina, you are required to take the breath test when the police pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving (provided that the police comply with the law). This is based on the state’s “implied consent” statute, which basically says that you automatically consent to giving a breath sample by driving on South Carolina’s public roads.
If you refuse the breath test, you will face an automatic 90-day driver’s license suspension. This increases to 180 days if you have any prior alcohol-related convictions within the past 10 years. Since an implied consent violation is a separate offense from DUI, you can lose your license regardless of whether you were drunk behind the wheel.
5. You Had an Open Container in Your Vehicle
Having an open container in your vehicle is also a separate offense under South Carolina law. If the police find an open container in your vehicle during your DUI stop, you can face an additional $100 fine and up to an additional 30 days of community service or jail time.
6. You Had a Minor in Your Vehicle
If you get arrested for driving under the influence and you have a minor in your vehicle who is 16 years of age or younger, you can be charged with child endangerment in addition to being charged with DUI (or felony DUI). The additional penalties you can face for child endangerment include:
- Up to half of the maximum fine for your DUI offense (if you get fined for your DUI);
- Up to half of the maximum jail sentence for your DUI offense (if you get jailed for your DUI); or,
- Up to half of the maximum fine and half of the maximum jail sentence (if you get fined and jailed for your DUI).
7. You Are a Student, Licensed Professional, or Member of the Armed Forces
Finally, if you are a student, licensed professional, or member of the Armed Forces, a DUI conviction can have major repercussions for your academics or your career. College students can face disciplinary action at school, while licensed professionals can face disciplinary action from their state licensing boards. If you are in the Armed Forces, the consequences of getting a DUI will depend on the specific branch in which you serve; and, if you get a DUI on base (i.e., at Joint Base Charleston), you can face a court martial.
Regardless of the costs you are facing, you need experienced legal representation if you have been arrested for DUI in North Charleston. Even if you were driving drunk, you may still have a variety of defenses available. Defense lawyer Rad S. Deaton has over 20 years of legal experience, and he can use his experience to help protect you.
Schedule a Free Consultation About Your DUI Case in North Charleston, SC
If you are facing a DUI charge in North Charleston, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your case with DUI lawyer Rad S. Deaton. For a free and confidential consultation, call 843-225-5723 or tell us how we can reach you online today.