South Carolina Drunk Driving Laws
When is a Driver Considered to be Legally Drunk in South Carolina?
- Non-commercial drivers age 21+ are considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
- Drivers of commercial vehicles are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .04 percent or greater. In South Carolina, school bus drivers are commercial drivers.
- Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their blood alcohol concentration is .02 or more.
Penalties for Drunk Driving in South Carolina
- A first-time offender is subject to a $400 fine or imprisonment for 48 hours to 30 days. In lieu of the 48-hour minimum prison term, the sentencing judge may order 48 hours of public service work. The driver’s license suspension period is six months.
- For a second violation within 10 years, the offender faces five days to one year in prison and will be fined $2,100 to $5,100. In lieu of prison, the sentencing judge may order no less than 30 days of public service work. The driver’s license suspension period is one year.
- For a third violation within 10 years, the offender faces 60 days to three years in prison and will be fined $3,800 and $6,300. The driver’s license suspension period is two years. If, however, the third conviction occurred within five years from the date of the first offense, the suspension period is four years.
- A person who commits a fourth or subsequent DUI faces one to five years in prison. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for life. The offender may apply for reinstatement after seven years.
Enhanced Penalty for DUI that Causes Great Bodily Injury or Death
A person who commits a DUI that causes great bodily injury will be imprisoned for 30 days to 15 years and fined $5,100 to $10,100. “Great bodily injury” means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serous, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ. A person who commits a DUI that causes the death of another will be imprisoned from one to 25 years and fined $10,100 to $25,100.
Enhanced Penalty for DUI with Passenger Under 16 in the Vehicle
A person 18 or over who commits a DUI while a passenger under 16 is in the vehicle is subject to additional penalties of up to one-half of the maximum prison sentence and one-half of the maximum fine applicable to the initial offense. For example, the maximum prison term for a second-time DUI offender is one year and the maximum fine is $5,100. If the offender committed the DUI while a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle, he or she is subject to an additional six months in prison and an additional $2,550 fine.
The length of time that an interlock device is required to be affixed to a motor vehicle following the completion of a period of license suspension imposed on the offender is two years for a second offense, three years for a third offense, and the remainder of the offender's life for a fourth or subsequent offense.
In addition to other penalties that may apply under South Carolina’s DUI laws, a commercial driver who commits a first DUI while driving any vehicle will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year. If, however, the driver was operating a commercial vehicle and transporting hazardous materials at the time, the disqualification period is at least three years. A commercial driver who commits a second DUI while driving any vehicle will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for life, which may or may not be reduced to a period of not less than 10 years.
Drivers Under 21
In addition to other penalties that may apply under South Carolina’s DUI laws, a driver under 21 whose BAC registered .02 or more will have his or her driver’s license suspended for three months for a first violation or six months if the driver had been previously convicted of DUI within five years. Within 30 days of receiving the suspension notice, the driver must either request an administrative hearing or enroll in an alcohol safety action program.
What is South Carolina’s Dram Shop Act?
Under this law, an injured third party has a right to maintain a negligence action against a tavern owner if the tavern served alcohol to an intoxicated adult or to a person under 21 and the drinker’s intoxication caused the injury. South Carolina does not permit a dram shop action to be brought by an intoxicated adult drinker who suffers injury because of his or her own intoxication.
Criminal Liability of Licensed Drinking Establishments for Serving Alcohol to Minors
A server at a tavern who knowingly sells alcohol to a person under 21 faces 30 to 60 days in prison and a fine of $100 to $200.
Criminal Liability for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
A person who furnishes or gives alcohol to a person under 21, for a first offense, must be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than three hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both; for a second or subsequent offense, must be fined not less than four hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.
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