Expungements in South Carolina: What You Need to Know

Expungements in South Carolina: What You Need to Know

There is a wide range of minor criminal offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including minor drug offenses, magistrate or municipal court offenses, and charges that are dismissed through pretrial diversion programs. 

What is an expungement? 

If your South Carolina convictions are eligible for expungement, you can have all records of your arrest, prosecution, and conviction destroyed, including records held by the police department, jail, prison, clerk’s office, and solicitor’s office. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • What types of charges are eligible for expungement in South Carolina,
  • What an expungement means in South Carolina, and
  • The process for getting an expungement in South Carolina. 

Basics of Expungements in South Carolina

There is a broad range of criminal offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including minor drug offenses, magistrate or municipal court offenses, Youthful Offender Act (YOA) convictions, and charges that have been dismissed or acquitted at trial. It is important to remember that expungements are not guaranteed – you apply for an expungement. 

What Types of Charges are Eligible for Expungement in South Carolina?

Dismissals and Acquittals

If your case was dismissed by the court or the prosecutor, all records of the arrest, prosecution, and dismissal can be expunged from your record. Similarly, if you are acquitted at trial, you can have all records of the arrest, prosecution, and trial expunged from your record. 

Pre-Trial Diversion Programs

There are various pretrial diversion programs in South Carolina that will result in dismissal and expungement of your charges once you successfully complete the program. These include:

  • Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI),
  • The Alcohol Education Program (AEP),
  • The Traffic Education Program (TEP),
  • Drug Court, and
  • Conditional discharges

If you complete a pretrial diversion program, you must also get your expungement through that program (and pay the associated fees). 

Magistrate and Municipal Court Offenses

A first offense conviction for most magistrate or municipal court offenses can be expunged if there are no other convictions for three years – this only includes magistrate or municipal court level offenses where the potential penalty does not exceed 30 days. 

This does not include domestic violence convictions or traffic offenses – a first offense domestic violence third degree conviction can be expunged after five years, and traffic offenses (with the exceptions of first offense failure to stop for a blue light, reckless driving through PTI, or other traffic offenses through the TEP) cannot be expunged. 

Drug Offenses

A 2018 amendment to South Carolina’s expungement laws expanded the types of drug convictions that can be expunged. Under the new law, a first offense conviction for:

  • Possession of any controlled substance can be expunged after three years,
  • Unlawful possession of a prescription drug can be expunged after three years, and
  • Possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance can be expunged after 20 years. 

Youthful Offender Act (YOA) Offenses

South Carolina’s expungement laws for Youthful Offender Act convictions have been through several revisions over the years. Under the current law:

  • A YOA conviction can be expunged after five years if there are no other convictions; 
  • If you were not sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act, even if you would have qualified, you are not eligible for a YOA expungement; but
  • If you were convicted before June 2, 2010, and you would have been eligible for a YOA sentence, you can now have your record expunged. 

YOA expungements do not apply to statutory violent crimes (listed in SC Code Section 16-1-60), traffic offenses, or sex offenses that require registration on the sex offender registry. 

Miscellaneous Offenses

There are other miscellaneous offenses that are eligible for expungement in South Carolina, including:

  • First offense misdemeanor fraudulent check charges,
  • First offense failure to stop for a blue light,
  • Juvenile expungements, and
  • Expungements pursuant to the Youth Challenge Academy and Jobs Challenge Program. 

What if I’m Not Eligible for an Expungement in South Carolina?

If your conviction is not eligible for an expungement (and your deadline has passed to seek post-conviction relief (PCR)), your only option may be to apply for a pardon. 

A pardon does not destroy or erase your criminal record, but it will restore your civil rights (including your right to own and carry a firearm and to obtain occupational licenses), and your criminal history will show that your offenses have been pardoned. 

How Do You Get an Expungement in South Carolina?

You can apply for an expungement:

  • Through the solicitor’s office in the county where you were convicted, 
  • Through the pretrial diversion program where your charges were dismissed, or
  • You can retain an attorney to assist you with the expungement process. 

What is the Process for Expungements in South Carolina?

Once your application is completed and any associated fees have been paid, the solicitor’s office will process your application. 

If the solicitor’s office approves the application, it is forwarded to SLED for their review and signature – SLED keeps a record of all expungements so that you cannot complete pretrial diversion or obtain an expungement of a minor conviction more than once. 

Once SLED approves the application, it is returned to a circuit court judge in the county where you were convicted. The judge then signs an Expungement Order that orders all government agencies to destroy your records (with some non-public exceptions like SLED’s records to prevent multiple expungements and copies of reports that police departments can retain for a period of time to defend against potential lawsuits). 

Once the Order is signed, it must be forwarded to the police department that made the arrest, the jail where you were held, SLED, the solicitor’s office that prosecuted you, the Department of Corrections, and any other agencies that were connected with your case. 

Are Expungements Automatic? 

If your case was dismissed or if you were acquitted in the magistrate or municipal court, the expungement process is supposed to be automatic. Despite this, many courts do not automatically process expungements – if your magistrate or municipal court dismissal has not been expunged within a reasonable period of time, you may need to take further action. 

If your case was dismissed or if you were acquitted in General Sessions Court, the expungement is not automatic – you must apply for an expungement through the solicitor’s office in the county of conviction. 

If your case was dismissed through a pretrial diversion program, the expungement is not automatic, and you must apply for expungement through that program. 

If you want to expunge a conviction after the waiting period, it is not automatic, and you must apply for an expungement through the solicitor’s office in the county of conviction. 

Questions About Expungements in South Carolina?

If you believe that you have a conviction, dismissal, or acquittal that is eligible for expungement in South Carolina, we can help you to determine whether your charges can be expunged, complete the application process on your behalf, and follow through with the various agencies to ensure that all records of your case are destroyed.  

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Top 15 Questions About Divorce in SC

Top 15 Questions About Divorce in SC

Questions about divorce in South Carolina?

Whether you are considering separation, or you have been served with divorce papers, you probably have a lot of questions and you may be feeling overwhelmed. Your first step is to consult with an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney who can answer your questions and help you to decide what your next steps should be. 

In the meantime, we have compiled answers to some of the most common questions about divorce that we hear from our clients, including:

  • How long the process takes,
  • What adultery is,
  • Whether you can get alimony in South Carolina, and
  • How marital property is divided in a South Carolina divorce.

Common Questions & Answers on Divorce

1. How long does it take to get a divorce in South Carolina?

There is no simple answer to how long it takes to get a divorce. The answer is… it depends.

Is it a no-fault divorce based on one-year separation? At a minimum, it will take one year from the date you and your spouse separated before your divorce can be finalized. Remember, once you file for divorce, it can take months for a final hearing to be scheduled and for your divorce to be final. 

Is it a “simple” divorce with no contested issues, or will the court need to decide matters like child custody, child support, alimony, and division of marital property? 

Fault-based divorces can be decided sooner than one year after your separation but contested issues may delay the date of your final hearing as both sides engage in the discovery process, litigate disputes, and participate in court-ordered mediation.

2. How long do you have to be separated before divorce in South Carolina?

If you are seeking a divorce based on one-year’s continuous separation, you must be separated for at least a year before your divorce can be finalized. During that year, you cannot reconcile, or the clock will start over.

3. How much does a divorce cost in South Carolina?

There is no set price for a divorce in South Carolina. The cost of your divorce will depend on the experience of the attorney that you retain and the complexity of the issues involved in your divorce case. 

For example, if you have no children, you have no assets, you are not seeking alimony, and you intend to divorce based on one-year’s separation with the consent of your spouse, the total cost of your divorce will be significantly less than it would be if you and your spouse must work out the division of a family business and substantial assets, if there are children and custody is disputed, or if you are seeking a divorce based on fault grounds like adultery.

4. What is the fastest way to get a divorce in South Carolina?

Like every other question in the law, it depends.

The fastest way to get a divorce in South Carolina is to file for divorce based on fault grounds (adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, or abandonment) in a situation where your spouse consents, does not contest the grounds for divorce, and there are no other contested issues. 

If your spouse does contest the grounds for divorce, however, the divorce process will take longer because you need to complete the discovery process, litigate any pre-trial legal issues, and attend a court-ordered mediation before a final hearing/trial takes place. 

In some cases, the fastest way to a final divorce may be to seek a divorce based on one-year separation and to reach an agreement on all issues before your final divorce hearing.

5. How do you prove adultery in South Carolina?

Although pictures or video of your spouse engaging in the act would be ideal, that rarely happens. Your investigator or other witnesses only need to establish that your spouse had 1) the inclination and 2) the opportunity to commit adultery. 

For example, if your spouse was holding hands with someone else or kissed them in public, and then disappeared into a hotel room with them for an extended period of time, that would be sufficient evidence to prove adultery.

6. Can you date while separated in South Carolina?

No one is going to tell you that you absolutely can’t date while separated, but it could affect your divorce.

Dating = adultery and possibly “marital misconduct” that can affect your case in many ways. 

For example, if you commit marital misconduct before 1) you have signed a written settlement agreement or 2) the Family Court has entered a permanent order for separate support and maintenance or a permanent order approving your agreement, you may be barred from receiving alimony and the court can take your “marital misconduct” into consideration when dividing marital assets. 

Even after a settlement agreement has been signed, dating will likely affect child custody in situations where the court considers it “marital misconduct” or when your new love interest negatively impacts the child.

7. Can you be denied a divorce?

If you ask for a divorce on fault grounds only, and you do not prove the fault grounds, the court will deny your divorce. 

If you ask for a divorce based on one-year’s continuous separation, and the court finds that you have not been living separate and apart for the full year, the court will deny your divorce.

8. Does it matter who files for divorce first in South Carolina?

It matters only from a psychological perspective – if you file first, you have the first opportunity to tell the story of your case and to provide a framework through which the court will see the facts of your case. 

Apart from that, you can include all of your claims in your Answer and Counterclaims, and you do not lose any rights by not filing first.

9. Who gets the house in a divorce in South Carolina?

There is no set rule as to who keeps the marital home in a divorce, but, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the court will:

  • Identify what property is part of the “marital estate” (the marital home will usually be considered part of the marital estate),
  • Value both marital and non-marital property, and
  • Divide the property equitably, taking into consideration the statutory factors for division of marital property.

For example, if one spouse has custody of the children and needs the marital home to continue to provide for them, the court will take this into consideration when dividing the marital property.

10. How do I divorce my spouse and keep everything?

This is not likely to happen, but the court will follow the rules identified above when dividing the marital assets. 

One factor that the court must consider is marital misconduct – for example, if you prove adultery, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, or abandonment as a ground for divorce, you are more likely to keep a greater portion of the marital estate.

11. Can I divorce my spouse without them knowing?

It’s not likely. 

You must serve the divorce papers on your spouse and give them sufficient notice and opportunity to reply. Unless your spouse has disappeared and it is impossible to locate them, any divorce that is granted could be undone if your spouse did not receive proper notice.

12. Can you get a divorce if your spouse won’t sign?

Yes. 

Your spouse doesn’t have to sign anything for you to get a divorce on fault grounds or after a one-year separation, but they must have notice and an opportunity to respond to your divorce action.

13. How do I get a divorce in South Carolina without waiting a year?

If you can prove a fault-ground for divorce like adultery, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, or abandonment, you do not need to wait for the one-year continuous separation.

14. Is South Carolina an alimony state?

You can receive alimony when appropriate in South Carolina in an Order for Separate Support and Maintenance or in your final divorce decree.

15. Is sexting considered adultery in South Carolina?

“Sexting” is not adultery, but it can be evidence of adultery – you need only prove 1) inclination (sexting would certainly imply inclination) and 2) opportunity. 

Sexting alone, however, without further evidence of adultery, could still be considered “marital misconduct” that may affect child custody, alimony, or division of assets.

Questions About Divorce in South Carolina?

If you are considering separation or divorce, call an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney now who can answer your questions and help to protect your rights during the process.  

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Stand Your Ground and Self-Defense Law in SC

Stand Your Ground and Self-Defense Law in SC

What are the rules for self-defense in South Carolina, and how does South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law work? 

You have a legal right to defend yourself, but the rules for how and when you are permitted to defend yourself can be different from state to state. In one state, you could avoid arrest altogether, while in another state you could find yourself in jail awaiting trial for murder under the exact same set of facts. 

In this article, you will learn the basics of self-defense in South Carolina, including:

  • The elements of self-defense,
  • The rules for “defense of others,”
  • What the Castle Doctrine is, and
  • How South Carolina’s stand your ground law works.

What are the Rules for Self-Defense in South Carolina?

In any jurisdiction, you may find yourself arrested and charged with murder (or assault and battery) even though you followed the rules.  Self-defense is, unfortunately, often your defense at trial rather than the prosecution’s reason for leniency before trial. 

This is why every person should know the basics of self-defense and whether your state has a stand your ground law – you never know when you will have to defend yourself. Self-defense is often used in response to a sudden and unexpected situation, and your goal is not only to defend yourself, or others, from an attacker, but also to avoid arrest and prosecution.

The Elements of Self-defense in South Carolina

There are four elements of self-defense in South Carolina. If you raise the defense of self-defense and the prosecution can’t disprove one or more of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, jurors must acquit you at trial. They are as follows:

1. You were “without fault in bringing on the difficulty” – you cannot instigate or attack another person and then claim self-defense;

2. You were, or you believed that you were, “in imminent danger of losing [your] life or sustaining serious bodily injury;”

3. “[A] reasonably prudent man of ordinary firmness and courage” would have believed they were in imminent danger if they were in your place – your belief that you were in danger must be objectively reasonable; and

4. There was “no other probable means of avoiding the danger” – before South Carolina’s stand your ground law was passed, there was a duty to retreat unless you were in your own home.

In every case where it applies, South Carolina’s stand your ground law replaces self-defense law in South Carolina. The most important distinction between stand your ground laws and the “old” elements of self-defense law in South Carolina is that element #4, “no other probable means of avoiding the danger,” no longer applies. 

There is no longer a “duty to retreat” in South Carolina if you are attacked in a place where you have a legal right to be, whether that is your home, your business, the sidewalk, or the corner grocery.  

The Castle Doctrine

What is the “Castle Doctrine?” 

Before South Carolina’s stand your ground law was passed, you had a duty to retreat before defending yourself – everywhere except in your own home

The Castle Doctrine is the idea that “your home is your castle,” and you should never be required to retreat from your own castle. If you are forced to defend yourself in your own home, that is where you make your stand to defend yourself, your family, and your property.

Defense of Others

“Defense of others” is another common-law principle that is similar to self-defense. If you see someone else being attacked, you have the right to defend that person to the same extent that they would have had the right to defend themselves. 

Just as an individual has the right to make their stand and defend themselves against attack under South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law, you also have the right to defend another person who is being attacked – without first attempting to retreat. 

On the other hand, if you misunderstood that situation, and the person you are defending was not acting lawfully, defense of others may not be an available defense.

Burden of Proof

Once you have raised self-defense, the State has the burden of disproving, beyond a reasonable doubt, at least one of the elements listed above.

South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law

South Carolina’s stand your ground laws essentially codified and expanded the Castle Doctrine and self-defense law, removing the duty to retreat if you are attacked outside of home. 

South Carolina’s stand your ground law is also called the “Protection of Persons and Property Act.”

South Carolina’s Protection of Persons and Property Act

The South Carolina Protection of Persons and Property Act replaces the common law elements of self-defense and defense of others described above. The stand your ground law made three important changes to South Carolina’s rules for self-defense:

1. You no longer have a duty to retreat if you are attacked in any place where you have a legal right to be and if there is a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury to either yourself or another person. You can hold your ground and defend yourself.

2. If a person is “in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if he removes or is attempting to remove another person against his will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle,” then there is a presumption that someone who uses deadly force against them has “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself or another person.”

3. A person who uses deadly force pursuant to the stand your ground law is immune from criminal prosecution or civil actions. If they can make a prima facie case that they are immune from prosecution, they are entitled to a hearing where the court will determine whether the stand your ground law applies before they are subjected to a trial.

South Carolina’s self-defense laws still apply, but, in most cases, they must now be interpreted in the context of the Protection of Persons and Property Act – there is no longer a duty to retreat, the “reasonable fear” element of self-defense is presumed when someone is forcibly entering your house or vehicle, and you are immune from prosecution if the Act applies to your situation.

Questions About Self-defense in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, get an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately who can begin preparing your defense, work to get your case dismissed, negotiate on your behalf, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Where Can You Carry a Concealed Weapon in SC?

Where Can You Carry a Concealed Weapon in SC?

The answer depends on whether you have a concealed weapon permit (CWP) or not. A CWP in South Carolina allows you to carry a concealed weapon in most places, although there is a long list of locations that are prohibited. 

Without a CWP, your options for where you can carry a concealed weapon are extremely limited. 

Whether you have a concealed weapon permit or not, it is important that you know the rules because, if you are carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited area, you may be subject to arrest and prosecution for unlawful carrying of a handgun. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • What a concealed weapon permit is in South Carolina,
  • How to get a concealed weapon permit in South Carolina,
  • Where you can carry a concealed weapon with a CWP,
  • Where you cannot carry a concealed weapon, and 
  • The potential penalties for unlawful carrying of a handgun in South Carolina. 

Concealed Weapons in South Carolina

Where can a concealed weapon be carried in South Carolina? 

Do you have a concealed weapons permit? If you have a CWP, you can carry a concealed weapon anywhere – but – there are many exceptions that we will discuss below.

If you do not have a CWP, your options are limited. 

Where Can I Carry a Firearm in South Carolina if I Do Not Have a CWP? 

South Carolina gun laws make it a crime to carry a firearm in South Carolina unless you fall into one of the exceptions listed in the statute. I won’t list all of the exceptions here, but the most important ones for most people include:

  • If you have a CWP (but see the exceptions below);
  • If you are in your home or on your property, you can carry a handgun and it doesn’t matter if it is open carry or concealed;
  • If you are at your place of business (that you own), you can carry a handgun and it doesn’t matter if it is open carry or concealed;
  • If you are on someone else’s property, in their home, or at their place of business and you have their permission, you can carry a handgun and it doesn’t matter if it is open carry or concealed;
  • You can carry a handgun in your vehicle, but only if it is secured in a closed glove box, center console, trunk, or container in the luggage compartment; and
  • You can carry a handgun on your motorcycle if it is secured in a saddlebag or other container attached to the bike. 

What happens if police see a handgun on your person or on the floorboard of your car? Keep reading to find out.

Concealed Weapon Laws in South Carolina

If you are convicted of unlawful carrying of a handgun in South Carolina, police will confiscate your weapon and you are not likely to get it back from them. It is also a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a year in prison, a fine of $1000, or both. 

Other firearm violations, like the sale of a firearm to a prohibited person, possession of a stolen handgun, or felon in possession of a handgun, are felony offenses that are punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Is South Carolina an Open Carry State? 

South Carolina is not an open carry state. 

Whether you have a CWP or not, you are not permitted to open carry unless you are on your own property, you have the permission of the property owner, or are in the process of hunting/fishing.

Concealed Weapon Permits in South Carolina

How can you avoid an arrest for unlawful carry? Know the gun laws in South Carolina, and get a concealed weapon permit. Let’s look at how you apply for a CWP, and what the rules are for a CWP in South Carolina. 

How to Apply for a CWP in South Carolina

You are required to take a firearms safety class before SLED will issue a CWP – in many cases, your instructor will help you to complete the remaining steps to apply for your permit. 

SLED will require you to provide them with:

  • An application,
  • Your photo ID,
  • Proof of residency,
  • Proof of 20/40 vision or better,
  • Documentation that you completed the required firearms training,
  • A fingerprint card from your local sheriff’s office, and
  • A $50 application fee. 

If you meet all requirements, SLED must issue the permit. If they deny the permit, there is an administrative appeal process with strict deadlines – contact your attorney for help appealing the decision. 

Where You Can Use Your CWP

Your CWP allows you to carry a concealed firearm in any location except those listed below. South Carolina is not an open carry state, so the weapon must be concealed at all times. 

Where You Cannot Use Your CWP

SC Code Section 23-31-215 (M) contains a list of the locations where firearms are prohibited, even with a CWP, including:

  • Police stations,
  • Prisons,
  • Jails,
  • Polling places,
  • Offices or business meetings of counties, municipalities, or public school districts,
  • School athletic events,
  • Churches without permission,
  • Hospitals or medical offices without permission, and
  • Any place that is marked with a sign prohibiting concealed weapons. 

A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and revocation of the concealed weapon permit for 5 years. 

Questions About Concealed Weapons in South Carolina? 

If you have been charged with a crime under South Carolina’s gun laws, get an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately who can begin preparing your defense, work to get your case dismissed, negotiate on your behalf, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

DUI in SC: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & Subsequent Offenses

DUI in SC: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & Subsequent Offenses

Charged with DUI in SC?

Whether this is your first experience with SC’s criminal justice system, or you’ve been here before, it can be confusing and stressful. People often wonder: Am I going to jail? Will I lose my license? Is this going to be on my criminal record for the rest of my life?

If you have been charged with DUI in SC, your first step should be to get an experienced DUI defense lawyer on your side immediately, so they can answer questions specific to your case and begin preparing your defense. You may have defenses you don’t know about, and your case could end with a dismissal, a negotiated plea to a lesser traffic offense, or an acquittal after trial.

In this article you will learn:

  • The basics of DUI laws in South Carolina,
  • How DUI offenses are defined,
  • How South Carolina’s implied consent laws may affect your case, and
  • The potential penalties that you will face if you are convicted of a DUI offense.

Introduction to DUI Charges

DUI, or driving under the influence, can be a serious offense in South Carolina. If you have been charged with DUI in South Carolina, you have a tough road ahead. If you are here reading this article, you’re on the right track – you are learning about what you’ve been charged with and what it means.

In this article, we are going to look at the basic nuts and bolts of DUI in South Carolina. First, what is DUI, and how is it defined in South Carolina law?

What is DUI in SC?

DUI in South Carolina  is defined in SC Code Section 56-5-2930, which makes it a crime to:

1. Drive,

2. While under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,

3. To the extent that your “faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”

Each of these three elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted of DUI in South Carolina. For example, if you are not driving, you are not guilty. If you are just sitting in your car listening to the radio, or even if you are passed out at the wheel with the engine running and the transmission in gear, you are not driving. This is not to say that you can’t be charged with DUI in this instance because you can! You are still “operating” the vehicle.

The State must prove not only that you were under the influence, but that you were under the influence to the extent that your abilities to drive were “materially and appreciably impaired.” People are often surprised when I tell them, “It’s not illegal to drink and drive.” It’s illegal to drink and then drive if your ability to drive is materially and appreciably impaired.

Implied Consent Law

South Carolina’s implied consent laws cause confusion for many who are charged with DUI. South Carolina law says if you drive in our state, you impliedly consent to give a breath or blood sample to law enforcement if they suspect you are DUI.

You can refuse to give a breath or blood sample, but they will suspend your license if you refuse. On the other hand, if you give a breath sample and the blood alcohol content (BAC) is .15% or greater, they will still suspend your license. And, if the machine says that your BAC is .08% or greater, they will use it as evidence against you at your trial.

Implied consent proceedings are separate from the criminal case – they are in a separate administrative court, and, if you lose the implied consent hearing or do not request an implied consent hearing, you can be punished twice with license suspensions or ignition interlock device (IID) requirements.

What’s the Legal Limit in South Carolina?

We often say that, technically, there is no “legal limit” for DUI in South Carolina. But:

  • If you are charged with DUI, a breath or blood sample result of .08% or greater creates an “inference” that you were under the influence, and
  • If you are charged with DUAC (driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration), the State only needs to prove that your blood alcohol content was .08% or greater, which they can do by presenting evidence of your breath or alcohol test results to a jury.

Felony DUI with Death or Great Bodily Injury

Felony DUI is the most serious DUI offense in South Carolina, and it is charged when someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of a DUI-related accident.

If you are charged with felony DUI in SC, the State must prove that:

  • You were driving,
  • You were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs,
  • You committed an “act forbidden by law or neglect[ed] any duty imposed by law in the driving of the motor vehicle” (for example, a traffic violation like speeding or running a red light), and
  • The violation that you committed was the proximate cause of death or great bodily injury to another person.

DUI Penalties

The potential penalties for DUI in South Carolina increase based on the number of DUI-related convictions you have had within the past 10 years. For example, if you had a DUI conviction in 2012, and you are convicted of another DUI in 2021, the 2021 DUI would be a second offense with harsher penalties.

 

Below is a chart that contains the potential penalties for DUI or DUAC 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th and subsequent offenses, including the mandatory minimum penalties. Note that the penalties increase based on the breathalyzer or blood test results:

 

Charge of DUI or DUAC BAC Level Offense Classification

Penalty 

(does not include court costs and assessments)

Mandatory IID License Suspension
1st Offense < .10% misdemeanor

Fine = $400

OR

Jail = 48 hours to 30 days

None 6 months
1st Offense .10-.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $500

OR

Jail = 72 hours to 30 days

BAC .15% or more requires 6 successful months

Depends on BAC:

 

.10-.14% = 6 months

.15 % or more = indefinite suspension with IID

1st Offense >.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $1,000

OR

Jail = 30 to 90 days

6 successful months to get license back Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
2nd Offense <.10% misdemeanor

Fine = $2,100-$5,100

AND

Jail = 5 days to 1 year

2 years Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
2nd Offense .10-.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $2,500-$5,500 (can’t be suspended lower than $1,100)

AND

Jail = 30 days to 2 years

2 years Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
2nd Offense >.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $3,500-$6,500 (can’t be suspended lower than $1,100)

AND

Jail = 90 days to 3 years

2 years Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
3rd Offense <.10% misdemeanor

Fine = $3,800-$6,300

AND

Jail = 60 days to 3 years

3 years Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
3rd Offense .10-.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $5,000-$7,500

AND

Jail = 90 days to 4 years

3 years Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
3rd Offense >.15% misdemeanor

Fine = $7,500-$10,000

AND

Jail = 6 months to 5 years

3 years  – or If the 1st conviction occurs within 5 years then 4 years IID Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
4th or Subsequent Offense <.10% felony Jail = 1-5 years Life Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
4th or Subsequent Offense .10-.15% felony Jail = 2-6 years Life Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program
4th or Subsequent Offense >.15% felony Jail = 3-7 years Life Can only drive pursuant to the Ignition Interlock Device Program

 

Other Penalties for DUI in SC

Jail time is only one of the consequences of a DUI conviction. Other negative consequences can follow you for the rest of your life. For example:

  • DUI convictions cannot be expunged in South Carolina – 30 years from now, potential employers may still reject you because there is a DUI on your record.
  • After a DUI conviction or implied consent violation, you must enroll in ADSAP (the alcohol and drug safety action program) before you are allowed to drive again.
  • You will be required to carry expensive SR-22 insurance for three years, and, if your insurance lapses even once, the requirement will be extended.
  • You may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID), which requires you to blow into a breathalyzer before your vehicle’s ignition will work.
  • Many employers will reject applicants who have a DUI on their record – it’s a potential liability, especially if the job requires driving. If there are multiple applicants for a job, and one has a DUI conviction while another does not, who are they going to hire?
  • The financial consequences for a DUI conviction involve more than just a fine – ADSAP, SR-22, and IID requirements all cost money, as well as the lost opportunities when potential employers reject you because of a DUI on your record.

Felony DUI with Great Bodily Injury or Death

The potential penalties for felony DUI are much greater than those for “ordinary” DUI offenses, and a conviction will usually involve substantial prison time:

  • Felony DUI with death carries a mandatory minimum of 1 year and up to 25 years in prison and a fine between $10,100-$25,100, and
  • Felony DUI with great bodily injury carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days and up to 15 years in prison and a fine between $5,100-$10,100.

A Note on Judicial Discretion

Judges have a lot of leeway as to the length of a person’s sentence after a DUI conviction, and the length of the sentence can vary depending on your criminal history and the mitigation that your attorney collects and presents to the court.

On the other hand, judicial discretion has its limits. Judges have no discretion when it comes to:

  • Mandatory minimum sentences,
  • IID requirements,
  • License suspensions,
  • ADSAP, or
  • Expungement of your record (you cannot expunge a DUI in SC).

It is critical that you consult with an experienced DUI defense lawyer immediately after you are charged and before your initial court date so that you avoid a DUI conviction whenever possible.

We cannot promise results to any client, but we can do everything that is legally and ethically within our power to get our client’s case dismissed, win their case at trial, and avoid a lifetime of negative consequences from a DUI conviction.

Questions About DUI in SC?

If you have been charged with DUI in SC, get an experienced DUI defense lawyer on your side immediately who can begin preparing your defense and ensure that you do not miss important deadlines.

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

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