As a college student in South Carolina, getting charged with driving under the influence (DUI) can have serious consequences. Not only can you face penalties in court if you get convicted, but you can also face consequences at school, and having a DUI for under 21 on your record can negatively impact your job prospects in the future.
As a result, if you are facing a DUI charge, you need to take your situation seriously. You need to make sure you understand the risks involved, and you need to make sure you do everything you can to minimize the long-term consequences of your arrest.
Facing a DUI During College: 5 Key Questions for Students in South Carolina (Dui for under 21)
Protecting yourself after a DUI arrest in South Carolina requires informed decision-making. With this in mind, here are five key questions for assessing the risks involved in your case:
1. Are You Underage (Under 21)?
South Carolina has a “zero tolerance” law for drivers under the legal drinking age 21. If you are under 21, you may not drive if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or above.
If your BAC was between 0.02% and 0.08%, you will most likely be charged with an underage DUI. This means that you are facing a driver’s license suspension and any disciplinary consequences you may face at school. However, if your BAC was 0.08% or above, you face the same consequences as anyone over 21 arrested for DUI.
2. Did You Take the Breath Test?
The arresting officer probably asked you to take a breath test during your traffic stop. Did you comply? If you did, the prosecution can use your BAC reading as evidence against you—unless your defense attorney can successfully challenge your test result’s reliability.
You can be charged with an implied consent violation if you don’t. South Carolina law requires all drivers to submit to a breath test upon request as long as the police meet specific basic requirements. You can be convicted of an implied consent violation regardless of whether you were driving drunk, and a conviction can result in a driver’s license suspension.
Significantly, if you refuse a breath test, you can be charged with an implied consent violation and drunk driving. This is because there are two ways that prosecutors can prove drunk driving under South Carolina law. While one option is to use a driver’s BAC (which is technically referred to as driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC)), the other option is to use evidence such as swerving, slurred speech, and inability to walk in a straight line to show that the driver was “under the influence” of alcohol. If you refuse the breath test, prosecutors can present this as evidence that you knew you were too drunk to drive.
3. What was Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?
If you take a breath test, your BAC will determine the specific type of drunk driving charge you are facing, which will determine the penalties on the table. As mentioned, if you are under 21 and your BAC is between 0.02% and 0.08%, you are most likely facing an underage DUI. If your BAC was 0.08% or above, then you will be facing penalties in one of the following three ranges:
- BAC of 0.08% or above but less than 0.10%
- BAC of 0.10% or above but less than 0.16%
- BAC of 0.16% or above
As you’ll see in a minute, the penalties for all DUI charges in South Carolina are severe. But they get even more serious the higher your BAC. If you are being accused of causing an accident or driving with a minor in your vehicle while under the influence, this can increase the penalties that are on the table as well.
4. What Penalties Are You Facing?
When facing a DUI charge, it is essential to understand what is at stake in your case. The standard penalties for first-time offenders in South Carolina are:
- BAC of 0.02% or above but less than 0.08% (underage DUI): Up to a three-month driver’s license suspension
- BAC of 0.08% or above but less than 0.10%: Up to 30 days in jail, a $400 fine, and a six-month driver’s license suspension
- BAC of 0.10% or above but less than 0.16%: Up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a six-month driver’s license suspension
- BAC of 0.16% or above Up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month driver’s license suspension
Again, these are just the standard penalties. If this isn’t your first DUI, if you caused an accident or had an underage passenger, or if your case involves any other “aggravating factors,” you could face penalties far more significant than those listed above. Drunk driving arrests can also lead to disciplinary action at school in some cases—and different colleges impose different academic consequences for students found guilty of DUI.
5. What Defenses Do You Have Available?
While DUI arrests can have several consequences, there are also several potential defenses to drunk driving charges under South Carolina law. When you hire a defense attorney to represent you, your attorney will evaluate all possible reasons and formulate a strategy custom-tailored to your case’s facts. Depending on the circumstances at hand, your attorney may either (i) be able to get your DUI charge dismissed without going to trial, (ii) recommend pursuing a plea deal, or (iii) recommend fighting for a “not guilty” verdict or a lenient sentence in court.
Discuss Your Case with North Charleston DUI Defense Attorney Rad S. Deaton
Are you facing a DUI charge as a college student in South Carolina? If so, we invite you to contact us for more information. To request a free and confidential consultation with North Charleston DUI defense attorney Rad S. Deaton, call 843-335-5723 or get in touch online today.