DUI is an ever-present part of our society, but the charge and its consequences are largely misunderstood. That’s why I wrote a report on it, which you can have for FREE.

The first question most folks have after putting a night in jail behind them is, what happens if I’m convicted? The short answer is: nothing good—but you’re here for the long answer.

The long answer follows, and you’ll see the severity of the sentence depends on your breath test results. Remember, these are just the criminal penalties. Read further to learn about the other costs of conviction.

DUI/DUAC Sentences Are Based on Your Breath Alcohol Test Result

FREE POINTER: Section 56-5-2930 of the South Carolina Code sets the amount for fines after a DUI or DUAC conviction. But those numbers are misleading, because court costs and assessments get added. This usually more than doubles the fine amount. That’s why I give a more accurate estimate of the amount you’ll actually pay the court for each charge.

Refusal or Breath Test of .09 BAC or less

If you refuse the breath test- which doesn't make it harder to win your case, or if you blow under .09, then you are subject to a $400 fine. In the real world, this means you’ll pay around $1,025 or serve from 48 hours up to 30 days in jail. The judge can order 48 hours of community service instead of the minimum jail term.

Breath Test of .10 to .15 BAC

The fine is $500, but with additional fees you’ll pay around $1,250 or face jail from 72 hours up to 30 days. The judge can order 72 hours of community service instead of the minimum jail term.

Breath Test of .16 BAC and up

You’ll get a $1,000 fine, meaning around $2,270 in real-world payments or spend 30 to 90 days in jail. The judge can order 30 days of community service instead of the minimum jail term.

You’re in Trouble, But Maybe You’re Not Doomed

If you think you’ve blown too high to be helped, don’t give up. A skilled DUI defense attorney may find defenses you don’t know about. Even if the state’s case looks airtight, a talented DUI lawyer can craft your case to achieve a plea to a reduced breath test result, which can be real important, as shown below.

Then Your License Gets Suspended (Maybe AGAIN). You Might Get Your License Back, But You Probably Won’t Like It

The baseline suspension for a first conviction is six months. Note I said first conviction, because if you plead to a first offense for a repeat offense, your suspension is based on your conviction number.

But—as they say, “Lucky for you”—you can end the suspension by buying SR-22 car insurance. This usually means your insurance premiums skyrocket, but at least you get your license back. Next, you must take additional action according to your breath result. This is where it can get even more expensive and downright humiliating:

  • Refusal. S.C. Code § 56-5-2990(A)(2)(a) requires you to sign up for the expensive ignition interlock program. If you take this option, it’s required at least three months. Or you can just not drive.
  • Breath test less than .15. You actually do get lucky here, relatively speaking. If your license isn’t suspended for any other reason, you can get a provisional license to drive in South Carolina that’s valid for six months from the date on the license. To get it, you’ve got to enroll in ADSAP first- see below. For more, see S.C. Code §56-1-1320.
  • Breath test of .15 or more. S.C. Code §56-5-2990(A)(2)(c) requires ignition interlock for six months.

Next, There’s ADSAP

An Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program is required for all convictions under S.C. Code §56-5-2930(H). This is a state program commonly called “drunk driving classes.” The minimum cost is $500, but you can be charged up to a maximum of $2,500. If you can’t afford it, you do 50 hours community service instead. ADSAP chooses the option for you, and uses it to determine whether you’ve completed the program.

You’ve got to enroll within 30 days of conviction and attend the first available course. If you do not enroll or participate as required by law, you will be brought back into court, possibly to be sentenced for contempt of court, which could include jail.

The Stakes Are So High, It’s Just Worth Fighting

Remember this is just the worst stuff that happens. There’s more on this list.

While hiring a good DUI defense attorney won’t be cheap, your peace of mind is priceless when you know you’re doing all you can to protect yourself.

If you have a DUI/DUAC charge, you owe it to yourself to discuss your case, your defenses, and your options with an experienced DUI/DUAC lawyer. I’ll do this for you at no cost. To explore your potential defenses, call me toll-free at 877.230.1841.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.