If you decide to get behind the wheel of your car while drunk, you don't just put yourself at risk. You cause danger for everyone else on the road as well. In order to keep the roads as safe as possible for the public, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in South Carolina.
However, simply making a law against a certain behavior does not stop people from engaging in it. People still choose to drive drunk for a variety of reasons every day across the state, and sometimes, they get caught by law enforcement. When someone gets arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina, they will face criminal charges and penalties.
The exact consequences of the criminal charges will vary depending on complicating factors, such as whether someone got injured, as well as if the driver in question had a previous impaired driving infraction on their record.
Previous DUI offenses increase the penalties a driver faces
Even first DUI charges carry serious penalties. However, first-time offenders receive the most lenient sentences in most cases. Provided that there are no aggravating factors, such as people who got hurt or children in the vehicle, someone charged with their first DUI will face between 48 hours and 30 days in jail.
In some cases, the defendant may receive community service instead. There will also be a fine of up to $400, not including court fees and costs. Second offenses can carry anywhere from five days to a year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $5,100. The driver will lose their license and face other consequences as well.
Third DUI offenses carry between 60 days and three years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $6,300. Fourth or subsequent offenses carry between one and five years and a fine of as much as $10,000. Also, fourth and subsequent DUI offenses result in felony charges, not misdemeanor charges.
It is possible to defend against DUI charges
Many people mistakenly assume that it is impossible to defend against a pending impaired driving charge. They may think that a field sobriety test, combined with a chemical test, provides the court with enough evidence to convict them, even if they know they weren't under the influence of anything at the time.
Thankfully, it is possible for those charged with a DUI to defend themselves. Sometimes, there are medical conditions that can replicate the symptoms of impairment or cause a false positive on a breath test. Other times, mistakes made by the law enforcement officers involved in the traffic stop may result in false charges against the driver.
The best way to know how to build a defense in your case is to talk with a criminal defense attorney who has experience representing those accused of impaired driving in South Carolina.