What is a DWI Charge?

A charge of driving under the influence (DUI) will thrust you into the stressful, confusing, and expensive South Carolina criminal justice system. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the dire consequences you experience. These can remain with you for the rest of your life. In addition to the legal problems of a DUI, it may also signal an addiction that needs immediate attention and treatment. Find out what is a DWI charge here.

Contact us to learn more about DWI and how Myrtle Beach Recovery’s effective 12-Step Program can help you or a loved one.

Is There a Difference Between DWI and DUI?

Some states differentiate between a charge of driving while impaired (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). However, in South Carolina, the charge is termed DUI, and you can be charged in two ways:

  1. Physical or mental impairment. You can be charged with DUI if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle while impaired physically or mentally. The charge is not dependent on your blood alcohol level.
  2. Exceeding the legal blood alcohol limit. You can be convicted of DUI if your blood alcohol exceeds 0.08%. This conviction is independent of physical or mental impairment. An important aspect of DUI is the test to determine blood alcohol level. Typically, this is the familiar breathalyzer test, but there are others. While you can refuse this test, keep in mind you gave implied consent for this test when you received your license to operate a motor vehicle in South Carolina.

Is a DUI Charge a Misdemeanor or Felony?

A DUI charge in South Carolina is a serious offense. Still, it does not always result in a felony conviction on your record. However, you can be charged with a felony if you receive your fourth DUI charge or cause great bodily harm or death to another person in a motor vehicle accident. This includes harm or death to a passenger in your vehicle. You can also be charged with felony DUI if you drive under the influence with a child under age 16 in your vehicle.

1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Degree DWI

Each DUI offense within a ten-year period increases the potential penalties you may experience. In addition, some DUI offenses carry a mandatory sentence. Below is a summary of the possible consequences you may face with each subsequent DUI offense.

First DUI. Blood alcohol level is less than 0.10%. This misdemeanor’s penalty, excluding court costs, could be a $400 fine or jail time between two and thirty days, and loss of your driver’s license for up to six months. If your blood level reaches 0.15%, the fine increases to $500.

Second DUI. A second offense increases the range of court fines to $2100 – $5100, and you could spend anywhere between five days to one year in jail. You could also have your driver’s license suspended for up to one year. This, too, is a misdemeanor. However, if your blood alcohol content exceeds 0.15%, the penalties can be significantly more severe with maximum fines of  $6500, jail time of three years, and an indefinite suspension of your driver’s license.

Third DUI. Although your third DUI conviction within ten years is still a misdemeanor, your penalty could cost $10,000, five years in jail, and an indefinite suspension of your driver’s license.

Fourth DUI. If the court finds you guilty of causing great bodily injury while operating a motor vehicle under the influence, you face the following possible penalties as a convicted felon:

  • A mandatory fine of $5100 to $10,000. This can increase to more than $21,000 with court assessments and other charges.
  • Prison time of one month to fifteen years.

If convicted of causing death, the penalties include:

  • A mandatory fine of $10,000 to $25,100 with the possibility of costing more than $52,000 after additional court costs.
  • Prison time from one to twenty-five years.

A Single DWI Conviction Can Cost a Driver Up To…

Your first DUI conviction has more severe consequences than a speeding ticket or other misdemeanors. A DUI is more like a criminal conviction that can result in spending time in jail. In addition to jail time, the total financial burden of your first DUI can be overwhelming and life-changing. These costs can reach $10,000 or more and include:

  • Fines and court fees can range from one to two thousand dollars.
  • Bail bondsman fees can exceed $150.
  • Towing expenses can range from $150 to $275.
  • An increase in your motor vehicle insurance premiums. You can expect your rates to double for at least three years after your first conviction. This translates into $3000 for the average driver in South Carolina.
  • Mandatory completion of the South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. This will cost eight weeks to one year of your time and at least $500. Additional fees can be up to an additional $2500.
  • Driver’s license reinstatement. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will charge you a $100 fee to recover a suspended license.

Other DWI Penalties

In addition to possible jail time, you may face other adverse consequences that may affect the rest of your life. These include:

  • Having a permanent blemish on your record. You cannot have A DUI conviction in South Carolina expunged from your record. 
  • A change in your insurance requirements. After a DUI, you are required to carry SR-22 insurance for at least three years. This is more expensive and carries further penalties if you allow your insurance to lapse.
  • The requirement of having an ignition interlock device. This device requires you to breathe into a breathalyzer before starting your car. Unless you qualify for financial assistance, you must pay the monthly fee for this.
  • Employers refusing to hire you. You can lose the opportunity for a job based on a DUI conviction many years ago. This is especially true if the job requires any driving.
  • Spending time in community service. The court may require that you spend your spare time in community service.

Consider Myrtle Beach Recovery

Myrtle Beach Recovery can help you or a loved one recover from alcohol addiction in a safe and comfortable environment. Contact us today to learn more about conquering addiction through the 12 Step Program.