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DUI & DWI in South Carolina

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South Carolina DUI & DWI

Drinking and driving is a serious and dangerous offense in South Carolina. You can face heavy fines, jail time, driver's license suspensions, ignition interlock device requirements, alcohol and drug safety programs, and reinstatement fees.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and/or alcohol, you will face criminal penalties in court and administrative penalties with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

On this page you'll find information about the definitions of a DUI, the common penalties, and the steps you may need to take to reinstate your driver's license.

South Carolina DUI Definitions

In South Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle if your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

If you are younger than 21 years old, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

If you hold a CDL license the legal limit is 0.04% or higher.

NOTE: Depending on the circumstances of your offense, you may receive a DUI or alcohol-related violation even if your BAC is under the legal limit.

DUI or Refusing a Chemical Test Penalties in SC

The penalties for a DUI/DWI in South Carolina will vary depending on the severity of your offense and the number of times you've committed a DUI in the past 10 years. If you drink and drive you will face both criminal penalties in court and administrative penalties with the South Carolina DMV.

It is also important to remember that South Carolina has an "Implied Consent" law. This law basically states that if you drive in the state of South Carolina you agree to take a chemical test of asked to do so by a law enforcement official. Due to this law, refusing a chemical test can get you just as many, if not more, penalties from both civil and criminal court agencies.

Administrative Penalties

Administrative penalties are civil penalties and are in addition to, and separate from, criminal penalties. Once you fail or refuse a chemical test you can plan on losing your license for some period of time. You will have the option to request an Administrative hearing within 30 days of your notice to suspend. For more informations on hearing contact the Department of Motor Vehicles at (803) 896-5000.

If you decide not to contest the suspension or the hearing does not go in your favor, you will face administrative penalties which include a driver's license suspension:

DUI

  • 1st offense: 6 months (with a BAC under 0.14%).
  • 1st offense: Indefinite (with a BAC 0.15% and over).
  • 2nd offense: Indefinite.
  • 3rd offense: Indefinite.

Refuse chemical test

  • 1st offense: 6 months.
  • 2nd offense: Indefinite.
  • 3rd offense: Indefinite.

For both DUI and refusing a chemical test you will be required to complete the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services course. Additionally you'll have to pay a minimum $100 license reinstatement fee and carry SR22 insurance for a minimum of 3 years once your suspension is completed.

Those who have a 2nd or subsequent offense for drugs and/or alcohol, or a 1st offense involving "great bodily injury or death" will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on their vehicle if they wish to drive.

Underage Drinking and Driving

If you are younger than 21 years old, you can receive a DUI/DWI if you're caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

In addition to criminal court penalties, you will face the following penalties with 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.

Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties for DUI or refusing a chemical test are high in South Carolina. Again, these penalties will be in addition to any administrative penalties. Criminal penalties are greatly impacted by your BAC at the time of testing. The following are the minimum criminal penalties you may face in court for a DUI with a BAC of under 0.16%*:
  • 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.

NOTE: If you are arrested on suspicion of a DUI/DWI in South Carolina and you refuse to submit to a BAC/breathalyzer test, you will typically receive similar penalties to those above.

*A BAC of over 0.16% will cause higher fines and jail time.

South Carolina Ignition Interlock

An ignition interlock device, which attaches to your vehicle's ignition system, is used to test your BAC before you start your vehicle.

You will be required to have an ignition interlock device if you are convicted of a 2nd or subsequent offense for a DUI/DWI. If you refuse to have an IID installed when you are required to have one in order to drive, your license will be suspended for 3 years.

All installation, maintenance and monitoring fees will be your responsibility to pay. You must keep your IID in good working order in order to be able to drive. Your IID will have to be inspected by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole every 60 days.

For more information about ignition interlock device requirements, please visit the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website.

Reinstate Your South Carolina Driver's License

After satisfying the South Carolina court requirements and criminal penalties for a DUI/alcohol-related offense, you'll need to reinstate your driver's license with the South Carolina DMV once your suspension period is over.

Your reinstatement requirements will vary depending on the nature of your DUI, but you may need to:

  • Pay the reinstatement fee which is a minimum of $100.
  • Provide an SR-22 for proof of insurance.
  • Complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP).
  • Pass a knowledge test and driving skills test.

For more information please visit our Suspended License in South Carolina page.

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