South Carolina DUI Laws

South Carolina is known as one of the worst states for drunk driving in the nation, and South Carolina DUI laws are designed to curb this reputation. Driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than .08 percent breaks South Carolina DUI laws, and you could face license suspension, jail time, hefty fees, and an increase in your car insurance rates. Enter your ZIP code below to find cheaper rates for South Carolina DUI insurance.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 29, 2020

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In South Carolina, alcohol-related traffic fatalities have historically made up a large proportion of overall traffic fatalities. In fact, South Carolina has been known as one of the worst states for drunk driving in the nation.

Based on this, the state enacted new legislation at the end of 2008 to toughen up penalties for drunk driving. Penalties have been broken up into three tiers, based on the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system upon arrest. Drivers will now be subject to more stiff penalties, and even first offenders will receive worse penalties for a BAC that falls into the higher categories over .08%.

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DUI Laws in South Carolina

In South Carolina, any driver operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher has broken the law. The .08% BAC is a standardized measure of an “impaired” driver for every state in the U.S. For commercial drivers, the legal BAC is lower. Underage drivers may not legally operate a vehicle with .02% BAC or higher, and a convicted minor will lose his license for six months. Additionally, South Carolina follows the implied consent law. The implied consent law works as part of holding a South Carolina drivers license the driver provides automatic consent to undergo testing of their blood, urine or breath if a law enforcement officer suspects the presence of alcohol and/or drugs.

DUI Penalties in South Carolina

First DUI offenders in South Carolina face penalties based on their blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest. For drivers with a blood-alcohol content under .10, a six-month license suspension, $400 fine and jail time will be given. A person may also opt for 48 hours of public service, in lieu of jail time from 48 hours to 30 days.

For first offenders with any BAC level from .10 to under 1.6, the suspension period for a drivers license is for six months, with a $500 fine, and minimum jail time from 72 hours to one month, with the option of public service for 72 hours. For first offenders with the highest BAC above .16, the penalties are six months of license suspension, a $1,000 fine, and one to three months of jail time or 30 days of public service.

Drivers convicted of multiple DUIs may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Additionally, DMV will release the names of drivers who receive a DUI arrest and suspended license out to the public. Penalties become progressively worse as a driver has additional convictions. Penalties for a fourth DUI offense include jail time of one year to seven years, and a permanent license revocation.

Even before a fourth conviction, a driver may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed or lose his license permanently depending on the circumstances of the case.

DUI Accident Rates in South Carolina

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 40% of South Carolina traffic fatalities involved drivers who were legally impaired by alcohol. The national rate of traffic fatalities caused by drunk drivers is about 30%. The meaning of the number varies though, based on the population in each state. When the NHTSA reworked the statistics using the number of alcohol related fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, South Carolina’s rate was double that of the national average in 2005 through 2008. Statistics were not available for 2009.

SR-22 Requirements in South Carolina

Drivers convicted of a South Carolina DUI are required to conform with SR-22 form filing requirements for 3 years in the state of South Carolina. For drivers who do not own a vehicle, an SR-22 non-owner policy can be purchased. The court will require a convicted drunk driver to complete an SR-22 certificate. This is actually completed by the insurance company, before an SR-22 insurance policy can be issued. The certificate serves as proof to the DMV that the driver is carrying at least the minimum state requirements for liability insurance. If a driver lets his policy lapse, his 3-year period will start all over again, and he will have to pay a fee to have his insurance company file an additional SR-22 certificate with the DMV. Additionally, the DMV will immediately suspend his license if his insurance lapses.

How much is car insurance after a South Carolina DUI?

Once a person gets a DUI conviction, the price of insurance will increase substantially. Unfortunately, a DUI stays on person’s record for 10 years in South Carolina. One of the first things an insurance company does when quoting insurance premiums is to pull the customer’s driving history, and the presence of a DUI conviction places the driver into the more expensive high-risk category.

Individuals arrested for a DUI may find it useful to work with an experienced DUI attorney. An attorney may be able to reduce penalties, and even get a reduced conviction. This can help lower insurance rates, and possibly avoid the requirement of SR-22 insurance altogether.

South Carolina Car Insurance Companies For High-Risk Drivers

When searching for SR-22 insurance, it is important to shop around and obtain quotes from as many providers as possible. Each insurance company considers a long list of factors when calculating premiums. Each insurance company also develops its own internal formulas, then each places different weights on different information. For example, one insurance company may raise a premium because a person drives a newer car, while another insurance company does not care about the car model, but will raise premiums because the driver happens to be under 30 years old.

Several car insurance companies specializing in high-risk insurance are licensed to do business in South Carolina. For example, Progressive Insurance, State Farm and The General Auto Insurance all provide competitive pricing on SR-22 insurance. Get started and compare South Carolina car insurance quotes today by simply entering your ZIP code above!

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