FAQ’s Regarding DUI Charges In South Carolina

DUI Driver's License Check Point signage

It’s as simple as you’re out for a night on the town and you’re leaving the restaurant where you just had dinner and drinks. Then, all of a sudden, you see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror. At this point, you pull over. The officer arrests you and takes you to jail where you are asked to blow in the breathalyzer. You thought this sort of thing could never happen to you, but it did and it does. You have been arrested for DUI.

Common Questions and Answers About DUI in South Carolina

Over the years, our firm has answered many client posed questions regarding DUI’s. We have assembled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions here for your perusal. If you have any questions that have failed to make this list, feel free to contact us at Templeton, Mims & Ward at or (843) 891-6100 and we’ll be happy to assist you in any way we can.

Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in South Carolina?

While the DUI charging document is a blue traffic ticket, a DUI is still considered a criminal offense and can carry jail time if you are convicted of the DUI.

Not only is DUI a criminal offense, there are also “administrative” penalties that can be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV. Administrative penalties can include suspension of your driver’s license or your privilege to drive in South Carolina if you are licensed in another state at the time of your arrest. Administrative penalties can also include the required attachment of a alcohol ignition interlock device, the completion of ADSAP (Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program), as well as, other costly and time-consuming requirements.

Is a DUI Charge in South Carolina a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

It could be both. It really depends on the DUI offense you are charged with.

First, second, and third DUI offenses are misdemeanors, carrying fines ranging from $400 up to $10,000, jail time from anywhere to 48 hour to five years, and a license suspension period ranging from six months to four years depending on the level of the DUI conviction.

A subsequent or fourth DUI is a felony, which upon conviction, can carry a minimum of one to seven years of prison time and a permanent loss of driving privileges.

Are DWI and DUI the Same Thing in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the offense has always been termed as “DUI.” In some other states, they refer to the same offense differently where it is called a “DWI,” which stands for Driving While Intoxicated.

DUI infographic

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, DUI checkpoints are legal, even though, they have been outlawed in twelve other states.

The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution restricts any police intervention with a citizen’s movement that constitutes a “seizure.” A license checkpoint is a “seizure” of a citizen driving the public roads. The 4th Amendment mandates that seizures must be “reasonable.” What is considered “reasonable” has not been defined by the appellate courts over the years.

With that said, the police cannot set up a roadblock anywhere they like. They must establish that there is a basis for a roadblock that is related to traffic safety. A fundamental way to accomplish this is for the police to is to rely upon traffic safety statistics which establish a logical basis for the motoring public to be seized. For example, if records establish that a high number of accidents are associated with a particular intersection, then that location may warrant a need for enhanced traffic enforcement in the form of a roadblock.

As you very well may know, it is unconstitutional for police to randomly stop cars. However, if a roadblock is set up, each car in the path of travel must be stopped and driving license and documents checked. The courts have ruled that it would be unreasonable for police to only stop cars they subjectively conclude the need to be checked. This would afford the police a discretion that the constitution does not authorize or provide.

Records of all roadblock activity must be kept to determine if the site location was supported by existing statistics, and a supervisor must be present to oversee the roadblock operation.

The location of a roadblock must be publicly announced by the law enforcement agency performing the roadblock. It has been stated that this defeats the purpose of the roadblock by advising the public where not to drive. Others argue that by publishing this information is a reminder that the officers are out and policing the roads so rather than deciding not to drive to that location after consuming alcohol, a driver may elect to not drink and drive at all for fear of repercussion.

Officers are trained to look for objective clues of impairment which collectively form reasonable suspicion of the driver’s impairment and that further investigation is warranted at the roadblock. Only when facts derived from the field investigation form probable cause may a law enforcement officer arrest a driver for DUI.

Are DUI Charges Public Record in South Carolina?

When you get a DUI it is public record and many times it is published for profit on the internet. Despite the presumption of innocence, the publishing of such infractions is perfectly legal. The arrest and jailing of citizens must be made public record in this country.

How Long Will a DUI Charge Stay on My Record in South Carolina?

In the state of South Carolina, the criminal conviction of a DUI will remain on your record forever. Also, the South Carolina DMV provides driver’s records for past three years up to ten years.

Can You Expunge a DUI Charge in South Carolina?

A DUI charge not resulting in a conviction can be expunged. However, a DUI conviction in South Carolina cannot be expunged. DUI first offense charges that end in dismissal or acquittal, South Carolina law requires the clerk of court to prepare and process an expungement order.

Will a DUI Charge Affect My Car Insurance in South Carolina?

If you are charged with a DUI, most likely your insurance will be affected. You will be required to have SR-22 for a time period during and after your license suspension. This type of insurance is known as “assigned risk.” It is normally much more costly than ordinary insurance coverage.

Do DUI Charges Transfer From State to State?

The Interstate Driver’s License Compact is an agreement between states to exchange driver information when the home state driver is charged and convicted of a motor vehicle related offense in another state, and South Carolina is a member. The state DMV may apply penalties to the driver if they receive information that one of its drivers has been convicted of a traffic offense in a different state. This all depends on the laws of the driver’s home state.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle a DUI Charge in South Carolina?

It is wise that anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense to retain an attorney, and the attorneys Templeton, Mims & Ward has the experience to fight your DUI charges. Being charged with a DUI comes with harsh penalties and fines that are worth fighting to avoid. The aftermath caused from a DUI conviction can be devastating and life changing. Not only do you face harsh penalties and fines, but you could lose your license, your job, or even face jail time, depending on the circumstances

Can DUI Charges Be Reduced to Reckless Driving or Some Other Lesser Offense in South Carolina?

A DUI can be dismissed and a plea for a lesser charge can be entered for some other traffic offense if supported by the facts of the case. What is considered a win in a DUI defense case varies from case to case and client to client, but our goal, at Templeton, Mims & Ward, is to you the best outcome for your case that is legally possible.

Templeton, Mims & Ward Are Here to Help You With Your DUI Charges in South Carolina

A DUI charge is much more than just getting a normal traffic ticket and can be potentially life changing. Should you or someone you know find themselves in the situation where they have been charged with driving under the influence, contact us at Templeton, Mims & Ward to discuss your options and how we can best help you. Feel free to contact us at (843) 891-6100 or

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