In 2009, new legislation was implemented in South Carolina as part of a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. These laws established stricter penalties for those convicted of DUI in SC, regardless of whether they are permanent residents, vacationing tourists on the coast, or college students. Knowledge of these consequences may help deter individuals from driving a motor vehicle if they have been consuming alcoholic beverages in any quantity.

There are several factors that will have an impact on the severity of one’s sentence if convicted of this crime. For example, if you were involved in a vehicle collision in which someone was severely injured or killed, or if it is your third or fourth offense within ten years, you can expect to receive a much stiffer punishment than if you are a first time offender with relatively low blood alcohol content (BAC). However, even if it is your first offense, you will not get off easy. The sentencing guidelines were established to send the message the South Carolina citizens as a whole will not tolerate any amount of drinking and driving, so it is important that those who are convicted don’t take it lightly.

So what are the sentencing guidelines? Following is a summary of the penalties for a typical drunk driving conviction in the state of South Carolina.

If an offender has a BAC under 0.10, a first time conviction carries a fine of $400 and they can spend 48 hours to 30 days in jail. A BAC between 0.10 and 0.16 gets a $500 fine and 72 hours to 30 days in jail; and if one’s alcohol levels are 0.16 or higher, the fine will increase to $1,000 and jail time is 30 to 90 days in jail. When it is a first offense, a judge can reduce the imprisonment to community service for the equivalent amount of minimum jail time. However, all first time offenders can expect to have their driver’s license suspended for six months.

A second DUI conviction within ten years will result in a license suspension of a full year. Minimum fines range from $2,100 to $5,100 for a BAC of less than 0.10, and can go as high as $3,500 to $6,500 for a BAC of 0.16 and higher. Jail time increases to a minimum of five days to a year for one with a BAC under 0.10. A BAC 0.16 and higher can result in 90 days to three years of incarceration.

Third time offenders will get their license suspended for two years, and can spend anywhere from 60 days to five years in jail, depending on their BAC levels. The lowest fine they will receive is $3,600 and it can go as high as $10,000. In addition, if someone receives their third conviction within five years of their first offense, his or her driver’s license will be suspended for four years, which is twice the normal amount of time.

When someone receives a fourth conviction for drunk driving, they will have their driving privileges revoked. And though they can apply for reconsideration after seven years, there is no guarantee that the privilege will ever be reinstated. No fines are assessed, but jail time is one to five years for someone with a BAC under 0.10, two to six years for a 0.10 to 0.16 BAC, and three to seven years for alcohol levels over 0.16 percent.

In situations where major injury or death of another individual has occurred because someone was drinking and driving, the penalties are severe, regardless of whether it is your first offense or your fourth. Injury cases can result in fines from $5,100 to $10,100 and up to 15 years incarceration. An accident resulting in a death carries a fine of $10,100 to $25,100 and imprisonment for up to 25 years.

Regardless of the circumstances in which you may find yourself, it is never worth it to drink and drive. However, if you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in SC, contact a local attorney immediately. Plea bargains for a lesser offense are not allowed in these types of cases in South Carolina, so you will want someone on your side right away.