Drivers in Charleston suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs face increasingly strict penalties. Even a first-time offender may be subject to imprisonment, as well as a hefty fine and other expensive consequences.

Anyone charged with a motor vehicle offense involving alcohol or drugs should consult a knowledgeable Charleston DUI lawyer. A defense attorney experienced in handling these types of cases could explain your options and work to protect your driving privileges.

The Hidden Costs of a DUI in Charleston

Many people—even innocent drivers—believe that the best course of action when charged with a DUI offense is to admit guilt, accept the assigned sanctions, and try to forget about the experience. While accepting guilt may seem to make the problem go away initially, it could lead to more problems down the road.

To begin with, an admission of guilt constitutes a criminal conviction. When drivers have one DUI conviction on the records and are then stopped on subsequent occasions, they begin to look like habitual offenders. Too many traffic violation convictions can result in a suspended or revoked license.

In addition, a conviction for DUI may cause insurance rates to increase for a considerable period. With a local defense attorney that can help contest DUI charges, it may be possible to reduce the financial impact of an offense.

What is a Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration Offense?

Two statutes prohibit the offense most people refer to as DUI. South Carolina Code §56-5-2930 makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle “while under influence of alcohol or drugs,” while S.C. Code §56-5-2933 prohibits “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration.” The difference between the two statutes is primarily a matter of proof.

In order to convict a driver for operating a vehicle with an unlawful alcohol concentration, the prosecution must have the result of a chemical test showing that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 percent or higher. By contrast, a driver may be convicted for operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs if it is shown that the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle has been “materially and appreciably impaired” by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.

A Charleston legal advisor skilled in defending those with driving under the influence charges could work to collect and present evidence that demonstrates a driver’s ability was not sufficiently impaired. In some circumstances, an attorney may also be able to challenge the validity of a chemical test or other findings by law enforcement.

What are the Penalties for a DUI?

Criminal penalties assessed against drivers convicted of DUI or operating with an illegal BAC vary depending on certain factors. Prior convictions increase the severity of penalties, as would a higher BAC.

For a first-time offender, penalties may include a term of imprisonment between two and 30 days. An experienced defense attorney, however, could potentially argue for the imposition of a community service requirement for a drinking-related conviction in lieu of incarceration. Fines assessed range between $400 and $1,000 depending on the driver’s BAC.

Work with an Experienced Charleston DUI Attorney

In addition to fines and potential jail time, drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated offenses will usually have their licenses suspended, though a Charleston DUI lawyer may be able to assist in getting a provisional license. Moreover, drivers will be required to complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program certified by the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services at their own expense.

When you add up the costs of a conviction, it makes sense to take reasonable steps to fight the charges and protect your record. To schedule a consultation and learn how a defense attorney could assist in your case, call now.

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