If you were recently charged with a drunk driving offense in South Carolina, the penalties you may be facing could be a lot harsher than you expect. Even for a first offense driving under the influence (DUI), state law allows officers to temporarily detain you and sentence you with a fine and license suspension. Moreover, subsequent convictions allow for greatly enhanced consequences.
Regardless of whether you have a history of arrests for driving under the influence, it could be beneficial that you seek representation from a qualified criminal defense attorney if you are being charged with an alcohol-related offense. A Beaufort DUI lawyer could help you understand the charges against you and what your available legal options are while working tirelessly on your behalf to achieve a positive outcome in your case.
How Law Enforcement Prosecutes Drunk Driving Offenses
Under South Carolina state law, a person is considered intoxicated and not legally allowed to operate a motor vehicle if their consumption of alcohol or drugs has made them “materially and appreciably impaired”. Having a measured blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher in South Carolina confirms intoxication in the eyes of law enforcement, so anyone found behind the wheel of a motor vehicle with this BAC can be charged with a DUI.
In addition, if a Beaufort resident has a BAC of between 0.05 and 0.08, they may still be arrested if a police officer deems that they are intoxicated based on other observable factors, such as slurred speech or trouble walking in a straight line. Anyone who wishes to contest an arrest based on either of these standards should speak with a local representative as soon as possible about their DWI, DUI, or driving while high arrest.
Importantly, the South Carolina Code of Laws §56-5-2950 states that all licensed drivers are implied to have consented to blood alcohol testing if a police officer requests it. While drivers can still refuse to test, it could lead to an automatic 90-day or 180-day license suspension, depending on whether they have been convicted of or had their license suspended for a DUI within the previous ten years.
Different Degrees of Charges and Penalties in Beaufort
Under S.C. Code §56-5-2940, anyone convicted of driving under the influence who has no prior record of DUI may be sentenced with a $400 fine, imprisonment for anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days, and a six-month suspension of their driver’s license. Subsequent offenses increase the penalties a defendant can face, including a maximum of a one to a five-year prison sentence and permanent loss of license for anyone convicted of DUI four or more times.
Furthermore, S.C. Code §56-5-2945 allows for even a first-offense DUI to be prosecuted as a felony if the defendant’s drunk driving resulted in serious harm to another person. Representation from a local DUI defense professional could be crucial to avoiding the especially severe penalties associated with this kind of charge, which include a maximum $10,000 fine and 15-year prison sentence in the event of serious injury, and a maximum $25,000 and 25-year prison sentence in the event of a fatality.
Learn More by Talking to a Beaufort DUI Attorney
It is not impossible to fight a drunk driving charge in South Carolina, but it is far from easy to do so alone. Prosecutors are experienced at getting convictions in these kinds of cases, and you may be at a significant disadvantage in yours if you fail to retain skilled legal counsel.
Working with a Beaufort DUI lawyer could make all the difference in how your case plays out and what your future prospects look like after it concludes. Call today to speak with a legal team near you and decide on the best course of action for your circumstances.