So You’ve Been Arrested for DUI in North Charleston

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If you find yourself arrested for DUI in North Charleston, SC, it is important to get the legal help you need. In South Carolina, if you are convicted for DUI, it is not expungable and will be a permanent fixture on your criminal record forever.

ARRESTED FOR DUI in North Charleston, SC? WE CAN HELP!

South Carolina Law makes it illegal to Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs (illegal and legal prescriptions), or other Intoxicants to the point where your faculties are materially and appreciably impaired (S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-2930).

And for those folks that can “hold” their drinks so as not be as appreciably or materially affected, South Carolina has enacted what is, in effect, a per se DUI statute. It is called Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) (S.C. Code § 56-5-2933). S.C. Code 56-5-2933 makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle in this State when your blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is more than .08%. So, even if you are not “intoxicated” you can still find yourself in trouble.


When you are arrested for DUI and the Law Enforcement Officer suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol, that officer has the right to demand that you consent to giving a breath sample to determine your blood alcohol content (See S.C. Code §56-5-2950). This is also known as Implied Consent Testing. If you provide a sample and it is between 0.0% to .14%, then there are no immediate consequences to a person with a regular driver’s license. People that have Commercial Driver’s licenses do not fit into this category. If you refuse to provide a sample, or if your sample is more than .15% then your license to drive will be immediately suspended.


If your license has been suspended for refusing to provide a breath sample, or if the sample is above the threshold of .15%, then it is important to consider that there are two (2) distinct parts to your arrest. One is administrative and one is Criminal. While they are separate, each can affect the other.


Your license has been suspended….what do you do??? There are two choices:

  1. You can challenge the suspension by requesting an Administrative Hearing through the South Carolina Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. The information needed is on the back of a form that must be given to you upon your driver’s license being suspended. The cost of the hearing is $200. It must be requested within thirty (30) days of your suspension. If not requested within this timeframe, then you cannot have an Administrative Hearing as the Administrative Law Court will lose jurisdiction to hear it.

With my clients, I always recommend requesting an Administrative Hearing. It gives me, as your attorney, the opportunity to get sworn testimony from the officer about the incident that may be helpful to my client’s case. It is also the most cost effective way to get your license back since, upon your filing the request for Administrative Hearing, you can apply to the SC DMV for a Temporary Alcohol Restricted License that allows you to legally drive while awaiting the outcome of your Administrative Hearing. If you win, you get to retain your regular license. Lost the hearing? Then you go to the following option;

  1. If you blow above the .15% threshold, your driver’s license will be suspended for thirty (30) days. If you refuse the breathalyzer test, your driver’s license is suspended for six (6) months. (CAVEAT: these are for first time offenses).

No Administrative Hearing?

If you have not requested, or do not want to request, an Administrative Hearing to challenge your suspension then, in order to restore your driving privilege, you must enroll in the only approved substance abuse program by the State of South Carolina. This program is the Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program, also known as ADSAP. ( The cost of the ADSAP is approximately $500-$750. Once enrolled, the DMV will be notified and you may apply for a Route Restricted Driver’s License.

Or, if you do not want to obtain the Route Restricted Driver’s License, you can have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in your car for the duration of your suspension time. (See S.C. Code 56-5-2941). There is a cost for the Ignition Interlock Device and it is administered through the Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole. After your period of suspension has run, you can get your regular driver’s license back.

It is important to understand that the suspension discussed here is an administrative suspension and, therefore, different from, and in addition to, any suspension for the DUI or DUAC itself (the criminal aspect of the process) that will be further discussed.


If you are convicted of a first-offense DUI or DUAC in North Charleston, SC, it is important to understand the consequences of such a conviction. The fines and penalties are based upon the level of alcohol in the person’s system when arrested.

For a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.0% to .10% the penalties are as follows:

  1. At least 48 hours in jail and up to 30 days in jail. The Court may impose 48 hours of community service in lieu of the minimum jail time. Most people satisfy the minimum jail time requirement when they are initially arrested.
  2. A fine of $400, but with penalties, fees, assessments, it comes out to around $992.
  3. A suspension of your driver’s license for six (6) months.
  4. Enrollment in ADSAP (if enrolled for the initial license suspension there is no need to do it again).
  5. If you refused to take the Breath Test (DMT Test) the installation of the Ignition Interlock Device is mandatory.
For Blood Alcohol Concentration of .11% to .15%:
  1. At least 72 hours and up to 30 days in jail. The Court may impose 72 hours of community service in lieu of the minimum jail time.
  2. The fine is a minimum of $500. With penalties, fees, and assessments, it comes out to around $1223.50.
  3. A suspension of your driver’s license for six (6) months, however, the person may be eligible for a Provisional driver’s license.
  4. Enrollment in ADSAP (if enrolled for the initial license suspension there is no need to do it again).
  5. Ignition Interlock Device may be installed but it is not mandatory.
For Blood Alcohol Concentration of .16% or greater:
  1. At a minimum 30 days and up to 90 days in jail. The Court can impose community service instead of jail time.
  2. A fine of $1,000. With fees, penalties, and assessments, the total comes out to around $2,262.
  3. Driver’s license suspension for six (6) months.
  1. Enrollment in ADSAP (if enrolled for the initial license suspension there is no need to do it again).
  1. The mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device.

It is important to understand that the penalties, suspension times, fines, etc. listed above are only applicable for a first-time offense. If you are arrested for a DUI or DUAC within 10 years of a conviction for DUI or DUAC, then the penalties, fines, and suspension periods increase dramatically. Additionally, instead of being heard in Summary Court (Magistrate or Municipal Court) your case will be heard in the Court of General Sessions.

If you are arrested for Felony DUI in North Charleston, SC, with great bodily injury or with death, then there are a whole separate set of laws that apply to you.

If arrested for DUI or DUAC, you should seek immediate legal representation. Contact our office today for a free consultation with our attorney.

In addition to being an attorney with over 14 years’ experience, a judge for the City of North Charleston for over seven years, John L. Duffy, III is an editor and contributor to the new South Carolina Bar Publication called the South Carolina Implied Consent Manual (2020).

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