Drinking and driving is a serious offense — it puts the driver, passengers, and innocent passersby in unnecessary danger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 10,000 people are killed in drunk driving accidents every year in the United States. In South Carolina, killing someone as a result of driving drunk is considered vehicular homicide, and is punishable with a prison sentence from one to 25 years and a fine between $10,100 and $25,100.
Even just one alcoholic drink can affect an individual’s judgement, depth perception, and motor skills, all of which are necessary for driving safely. Swerving, tailgating, speeding, driving too slow, and driving without headlights at night are just some of the tell-tale signs of drunk driving. If an officer pulls you over and notices that you smell of alcohol, slur your speech, or appear generally incoherent, the officer will ask you to step out of the car and perform a field sobriety test. If you fail to demonstrate basic skills such as walking in a straight line or balancing on one leg, you will be asked to agree to take a chemical blood-alcohol content (BAC) test.
(Important: By driving in South Carolina, you are agreeing to the “Implied Consent” law, meaning that you agree to take a chemical test if asked to do so by a member of law enforcement. Refusing a breathalyzer test could actually get you just as many, if not more, civil and criminal penalties than if you took and failed the test.)
South Carolina BAC Legal Limits:
- 21 and over: 0.08% BAC
- Under 21: 0.02% BAC
- Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders: 0.04% BAC
South Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy, meaning if you are pulled over and found to be intoxicated, you will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). You will face criminal penalties in court, and jail time and fines will start to add up.
For a 1st offense, you may face:
- A fine of $400.
- Minimum 48 hours in jail.
- Maximum up to 30 days of jail time.
AND/OR 48 hours of community service.
For a 2nd offense, you may face:
- A fine of $2,100 to $5,100.
- Minimum 5 days in jail.
- Maximum up to 1 year in jail.
For a 3rd offense, you may face:
- A fine of $3,800 to $6,300.
- Minimum 60 days in jail.
- Maximum up to 3 years in jail.
For a 4th and subsequent offense, you may face:
- A fine determined by the court.
- Minimum 1 year in jail.
- Maximum up to 5 years in jail.
If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you will also have your license suspended by the South Carolina DMV.
- 1st offense: Driver's license suspension for 3 months.
- 2nd offense within 5 years: Driver's license suspension for 6 months.
- 1st offense refuse a chemical test: Driver's license suspension for 6 months.
Depending on the severity of your DUI (i.e., your BAC level) and your history of drunk driving, you may be granted a restricted license in order to drive to and from work and school. In order to have your driver’s license fully reinstated in South Carolina, you must complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP), which we offer at Trinity [link to ADSAP topic]. You will also need to pay a reinstatement fee of a minimum of $100, provide an SR-22 for proof of insurance, and pass a knowledge test and driving skills test.
All of this, of course, is if you survive. Successfully driving home drunk one time does not mean you’re good at it — it means you were lucky. Many are not that lucky. It’s unfair that those who are responsible and drive sober can have their lives taken away by someone who made the senseless decision to drive drunk. Next time you get behind the wheel, stop and think about how you would feel if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver. Keep this in mind and remember that you’re not only putting your life in danger, but thousands of other people’s lives if you choose to drive while intoxicated.