South Carolina and its counties, including Orangeburg, have been in the top ten states with most drunk driving cases for a long time. Currently, most counties in South Carolina are experiencing an increased rate of alcohol-related mortalities. According to NHTSA reports, there is a 14% increase in alcohol-induced accidents and associated mortalities from 2019 to 2020, and this trend is still moving upwards in 2022.
If you are charged with drunk driving, the best way forward is to hire an Orangeburg DUI defense attorney. However, this can be confusing, as all over the United States, different terms are used to refer to drinking and driving cases.
One may think, why would the terminology matter? Well, it does because each term comes with its own defining conditions. The legal specificities change with the state and the legal term implemented in the state.
What does DUI, DWI and OUI mean in Orangeburg, South Carolina?
In Orangeburg, SC, driving under influence (DUI) is the umbrella term used to indicate unlawful drinking and driving activities. Unlike Arizona, New York, or some other states, South Carolina has only a single defining term for all drinking and driving-related instances.
However, two different forms of charges are associated with DUI in Orangeburg.
- The first one, a DUI charge, refers to an instance of driving while impaired by alcohol.
- The second one, a DUAC (driving under unlawful alcohol concentration), specifically refers to the action of driving while the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the driver is beyond the legal levels.
It is important to note that these do not apply to the same situation. For example, if one is driving under influence, but their BAC is within the legal bounds, they will face a DUI charge. This charge applies to drivers who are “demonstrably impaired,” determined by on-spot DUI tests.
Whereas, if one is driving under influence and their BAC is also above the permissible levels, they will face a DUAC charge.
In any case, the penalties involved with both the charges are almost similar.
DUI Laws in South Carolina to Be Aware of
The following are some key South Carolina laws regarding drunk driving.
Driving Under the Influence
According to SC law, driving under influence is prohibited in all counties of South Carolina. This means that SC is a “zero tolerance” state. In no case will driving under influence be tolerated when the driver’s motor functions are demonstrably impaired. Thus, irrespective of BAC levels, any person driving under alcohol is breaking this law.
As per SC Code of Laws Section 56-5-2950 and 56-5-2951, no person can deny undergoing DUI tests when suspected of DUI. The tests involve testing BAC levels in the suspected individual’s breath, blood, and urine. Denying to cooperate on these tests can result in a 180-day suspension of your license.
Open Beer and Wine Container
Even if the individual is not drunk, open containers of beer or wine are prohibited in any vehicle under SC Code of Laws Section 61-4-110. Trucks and luggage compartments are the only exceptions to this law.
Open Liquor Container
It is illegal to have open liquor containers in any vehicle as per SC Code of Laws Section 61-6-4020. The only exception to this is the luggage compartment.
BAC Levels in Orangeburg
The SC Code of Laws Sections 56-5-2933 and 56-5-2940 limit the permissible BAC levels at 0.08%. Any driver under the influence, who has BAC beyond 0.08% can face a DUI charge and a DUAC charge.
Penalties in Orangeburg for DUI Charges
Penalties related to DUI incidents tend to vary greatly depending upon the nature of the incident, the severity of damages, associated mortalities, and the driver’s history of DUI record.
- For a first-time offense, the penalty involves the suspension of the driver’s license for six months, imprisonment ranging from 40 hours-30 days, and a fine of up to $400.
- For a second offense, the penalties involve suspension of the driver’s license for 1 year, imprisonment ranging from 5 days-1 year, and a fine of $2100-$5100, which can add up to $10,000.
- For the third offense, the penalty includes suspension of the driver’s license for 2 years. This will go up to 4 years if there is another DUI charge in the past 5 years. Imprisonment of 60 days to 3 years and a fine of $3,800 to $6,300 which can add up to $13,000.
- For fourth offense cases, the driver’s license is permanently revoked with a 1-5 year-long imprisonment.
It is important to note that these penalties only correspond to the DUI charge. If there is an added charge for open containers in the vehicle, you can face an extra $100 penalty separately for liquor bottles and beer bottles.
Beyond this, DUI cases become more severe in instances where any passengers or passersby are harmed or face death due to driving under influence. In such instances, a DUI case is also a felony. The penalties associated with these cases are-
- For bodily injuries to others: imprisonment of 30 days-15 years for major bodily injury to others. A fine of a minimum $5,100 to $10,100.
- In case of death of others: imprisonment ranging from 1-25 years and a fine of $10,100 to $25,100
It is important to note that the damage caused to each person is considered a count of felony. Thus, in case 3 people were injured in one DUI case, the above-mentioned penalty will be 3 times for that case.
What to Do if You Are Charged With DUI in Orangeburg?
When faced with a DUI on the road, the first thing to do is comply with the tests. As SC Code of Laws mandates this and there are penalties for denial. Cooperate with the officers and undergo all the routine tests.
If you believe your DUI charge was unjustified, you can seek legal advice from an attorney experienced in this field. They can help you make your case and prove the charges invalid or reduce your penalties.
How to Prevent a DUI Charge?
It is always better to prevent than look for ways to minimize the consequences.
According to the NHTSA, responsible behavior can prevent you from facing a DUI charge. “Responsible behavior” according to SC law entails-
- Opt for other transport modes if you have been drinking out.
- Take the help of a non-drinker friend to arrange for your return home.
- If your friend or someone you know is impaired due to alcohol, do not let them drive and try to arrange a safe ride home for them.
- If you are hosting a gathering for friends, including alcohol, ensure that all the members have designated drivers to take them home.
Bonus: If you are unsure whether you are impaired due to alcohol, use this as a rule of thumb: one drink contributes to 0.02% of BAC. Therefore, if you have had above four drinks, you risk facing DUI and DUAC charges.
In conclusion, ensure that you are well aware of the DUI laws in Orangeburg with the help of Orangeburg, SC, criminal defense attorney and follow the “responsible behavior” code to ensure that you do not contribute to the DUI rates of Orangeburg.