Can a First-Time DUI Be a Felony in South Carolina?

As a first-time DUI offender, you may believe that the prosecutor will be gentle and the judge will grant a lenient sentence. It is a harsh wake-up call when you realize that you were charged with a felony DUI. As an Orangeburg DUI lawyer will explain here, this is a real possibility in South Carolina.

Let us discuss this topic in detail and dispel some dangerous myths related to DUI laws in our state.

South Carolina Treats Any DUI Harshly

Driving with a BAC level above 0.08% is against the law in South Carolina and there is no mercy shown for first-time DUIs. The legislators impose both jail time and fines to DUI offenders. Moreover, they are mandated to install an ignition interlock device once they get their driving privileges back.

Speaking of driving privileges, Orangeburg DUI charges lead to the automatic suspension of the driver’s license – a separate, administrative penalty, which may be maintained even if you are cleared of the charges. This penalty is applied in the following cases:

  • You refused to submit to the breath test
  • Your BAC was above 0.15%

So far, we have discussed misdemeanor charges and administrative penalties. But what makes a DUI a felony in South Carolina?

The Conditions for Being Charged with Felony DUI

A felony DUI charge is extremely serious, as it involves even more severe penalties than misdemeanor DUI. Our state recognizes three special situations when a DUI charge is a felony.

The first condition refers to the third DUI charge – which obviously does not apply to a first-time offender. However, the other two can apply to any driver pulled over and charged with driving under influence – even for the first time in their life:

1. You Had a Minor Passenger in the Car

Having a child under the age of 16 in the car when you were pulled over for a DUI check makes your legal situation more complex. Apart from DUI, you will also be charged with child endangerment. And this gives the prosecution the right to classify your charge as felony DUI.

If the child is seriously injured or dies as a result of your driving under the influence, then your charge will be automatically classified as a felony.

even your first DUI can result in a severe sentencing

2. You Cause a Person’s Death or Bodily Injury

In this situation of felony DUI, South Carolina Code 56-5-2945 specifies that the following conditions must be met:

  • A person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • They cause an accident through their negligence
  • The accident caused death or great bodily injury to another person

As an Orangeburg DUI attorney knows, the prosecution can use the following types of injuries to justify the charges:

  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Loss or impairment of a limb
  • Loss or impairment of an organ
  • Increased risk of death

Penalties for a Felony DUI

To understand the seriousness of your situation if your first-time DUI was classified as felony, here are the penalties a judge may order if you are found guilty:

  • For bodily injury: up to $10,100 fine, mandatory jail time of minimum 30 days and up to 15 years in prison
  • For death: up to $25,100 fine, mandatory prison time of minimum 1 year and up to 25 years in prison

Also, once you are released from prison and regain your driver’s license, you will also have to use an ignition interlock device for:

  • 3 years for a felony DUI with bodily injury
  • 5 years for a felony DUI with death

Last, but not least, your conviction will be on your criminal record and cannot be expunged (deleted after a period of time).

Consult with an Orangeburg DUI Lawyer after Your First DUI!

You must not ignore or underestimate the impact of a DUI charge, even if it is the first one. As you can see, you can be charged with a felony DUI from the first offense and endure harsh penalties if you are found guilty.

Make sure you o put up the best defense you can, with the assistance of an experienced Orangeburg DUI lawyer. Talking to an attorney should be your first priority after getting charged, because you cannot start defending yourself too soon.

Reach out to us and schedule a free case evaluation at 803-353-1969!