South Carolina’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in South Carolina.

Like all states, South Carolina prohibits driving while under the influence (DUI) of drugs and/or alcohol. However, South Carolina differs from some other states in how it defines driving under the influence

This article outlines exactly how South Carolina law defines a DUI offense and the penalties a convicted driver might face for a first or repeat DUI conviction.

South Carolina's DUI Laws

To convict a driver of a DUI in South Carolina, prosecutors must prove to the court that the accused was driving a vehicle:

In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC or proof of actual impairment.

What It Means to be "Driving" a Vehicle Under South Carolina's DUI Laws

In many states, a driver can be convicted of a DUI without actually putting the vehicle in motion. But under South Carolina law, the prosecution must prove the person actually put the vehicle in motion to get a DUI conviction.

How South Carolina Law Defines "Under the Influence"

Generally, a driver is considered to be "under the influence" when his or her faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired. At trial, the prosecutor may have the arresting officer testify as to observations such as the driver's stumbling or bloodshot eyes. Prosecutors sometimes use an expert witness as well to explain how certain substances can affect a person's ability to drive.

Alternatively, a prosecutor can obtain a DUI conviction by using the driver's blood or breath test results. If the driver has a BAC of .08% or more, the driver can be convicted of DUI (called a "per se DUI") without proof of actual impairment.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in South Carolina

South Carolina statutes specify the minimum and maximum penalties for a DUI conviction based on the number of prior offenses. Only DUI convictions within the last ten years are counted.

Jail Time and Fines for South Carolina DUI Convictions

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in South Carolina.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


48 hours to 30 days

5 days to 3 years

60 days to 3 years



$2,100 to $5,100

$3,800 to $6,300

Substance Abuse Evaluations and Treatment for South Carolina DUI Offenders

All persons convicted of a DUI in South Carolina must enroll in and complete the "Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program" (ADSAP). After the driver completes an alcohol and drug abuse evaluation, the ADSAP coordinator will prescribe a specific treatment program tailored to the driver's evaluation results.

South Carolina DUI Probation

Instead of imposing a long jail sentence, many judges will place the offender on probation for one to five years. During probation, the offender is required to comply with certain court rules such as following the prescribed treatment plan and maintaining sobriety.

Generally, the offender must complete the mandatory minimum jail sentence before starting probation. But for a first-offense DUI, the judge can order completion of community service in lieu of the minimum jail time.

South Carolina's Enhanced DUI Penalties for an Excessive BAC

Drivers with a BAC of .10% or more will generally face increased penalties. These penalties depend on the exact BAC level and the number of prior offenses.

BAC of .10% to .16%

BAC of .16% or more

First offense

3 to 30 days jail and $500 fine

30 to 90 days jail and $1,000 fine

Second offense

30 days to 2 years jail and $2,500 to $5,500 fine

90 days to 3 years jail and $3,500 to $6,500 fine

Third offense

90 days to 4 years and $5,000 to $7,500 fine

6 months to 5 years jail and $7,500 to $10,000 fine

South Carolina Felony DUI Penalties

Most DUI convictions are misdemeanors. However, a DUI can be charged as a felony in South Carolina if the driver causes great bodily injury or death to another person.

South Carolina DUIs Involving Serious Injuries

A DUI that involves great bodily injury will result in $5,100 to $10,100 in fines and 30 days to fifteen years in prison. Offenders will be subject to an ignition interlock restriction (explained below) for three years.

South Carolina DUIs Involving Deaths

A DUI that involves a fatality will result in $10,100 to $25,100 in fines and one to 25 years in prison. The driver will also be subject to an ignition interlock restriction for five years.

License-Related Penalties for South Carolina DUI Offenses

A DUI will typically lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary depending on the driver's BAC, the driver's cooperation with testing, and the number of prior DUI-related incidents (qualifying priors include DUI convictions, test failure, and test refusals) within the last ten years.

License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

South Carolina's Implied Consent Law

South Carolina's "implied consent" law specifies that anyone who operates a vehicle within the state is considered to have given consent to breath, blood, or urine testing if arrested for DUI. Drivers who decide to refuse a lawful test request will often face additional license penalties.

Refusing a Chemical Test in South Carolina

When a driver refuses to take an alcohol or drug test as required by the implied consent law, the officer will immediately issue a notice of suspension. Unless appealed within 30 days, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first offense
  • nine months if the driver has one prior DUI-related incident, and
  • 12 months if the driver has two prior DUI-related incidents.

License Revocation for DUI Convictions in South Carolina

All DUI convictions result in driver's license suspension. The DMV will suspend the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first DUI conviction, and
  • until completion of the "Ignition Interlock Device Program" (IIDP) for subsequent convictions.

Drivers with a BAC of .15% or greater face an additional one-, two-, and three-month suspension for a first, second, and third-offense DUI, respectively

Getting a Restricted License in South Carolina After a DUI Suspension

Drivers suspended due to test refusal or a DUI conviction are generally eligible for restricted driving privileges. The type of license and applicable restraints depend on the driver's BAC and criminal history.

Provisional Licenses

For first-offense DUIs that did not involve a BAC of .15% or more or a test refusal, the driver can obtain a provisional license after enrolling in ADSAP (the Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program). The provisional license comes with no restrictions, but failure to comply with ADSAP requirements can result in license revocation.

Ignition Interlock Device Program

All other suspended drivers can apply for the ignition interlock device program (IIDP). Repeat offenders are required to complete the program. Participants must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) on all operated vehicles for:

  • six months for a first-offense DUI that involved a test refusal or a BAC of .15% or more
  • two years for a second-offense DUI conviction
  • three years for a third-offense DUI conviction (four years if occurred within a five-year period), and
  • life for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction.

For drivers with prior DUI offenses, the judge can order that any owned vehicles not equipped with an IID be immobilized. This measure effectively prevents the use of the vehicle during the IID period by revoking the license plate and registration.

South Carolina's Underage DUI Laws

A driver under 21 years old who is caught operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more can be cited for a violation of South Carolina's zero-tolerance law and face administrative penalties.

Although not a criminal offense, a zero-tolerance violation will result in license suspension for:

  • six months for a first offense, and
  • one year for a repeat violation.

The driver must also enroll in and complete the ADSAP prior to license reinstatement. Reinstatement also entails hundreds of dollars in reinstatement fees.

Talk with a South Carolina DUI Lawyer

The penalties for a DUI conviction are serious and the administrative rules for appealing a license suspension are time-sensitive. If you've been arrested for a DUI in South Carolina, consult with an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. A qualified DUI lawyer can explain your options and advise you on the best course of action.

Talk to a DUI Defense attorney
We've helped 115 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you