DUAC v. DUI Charges in South Carolina

There are two types of drunk driving in South Carolina – driving over the legal limit and driving under the influence of alcohol. They’re two different charges with some differences.

The Columbia drunk driving defense attorneys at Shealey Law Firm explain DUAC and DUI charges in South Carolina.

DUAC v. DUI Charges in South Carolina

DUAC is driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, and DUI is driving under the influence of alcohol.

DUAC focuses on the person’s alcohol content while driving, whereas DUI is how a person’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol.

While DUAC is only for alcohol, DUI may be based on alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

Both DUAC and DUI are drunk driving charges. The potential penalties are the same, which vary based on your alcohol level and whether you have any prior drunk driving convictions.

The DUAC Law in South Carolina

S.C. Code § 56-5-2933 is the DUAC law in South Carolina. The law prohibits operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more.

What are the penalties for DUAC in South Carolina?

The penalties for DUAC in South Carolina depend on the offender’s blood alcohol level and whether they have any prior drunk driving convictions. A first offense with a BAC of .08-.10 is punishable by a $400 fine or 48 hours to 30 days in prison. A person may serve 48 hours of community service instead of jail.

DUAC Penalties

Bodily Alcohol Content First Offense Second Offense Third Offense Fourth or Subsequent Offense
.08-.10 $400 fine or 48 hours-30 days jail* $2,100-$5,100 fine and 5 days-1 year jail $3,800-$6,300 fine and imprisonment for 60 days-3 years jail 1-5 years jail
.10-.15 $500 fine or 72 hours-30 days jail* $2,500-$5,500 fine, 30 days-2 years jail $5,000-$7,500 fine and 90 days-4 years jail 2-6 years jail
.16+ $1,000 fine or 30-90 days jail* $3,500-$6,500 and 90 days-3 years jail $7,500-$10,000 and 6 months-5 years jail 3-7 years jail

*Community service may be served in lieu of jail. The court may not require community service instead of jail.

Minimum sentences may not be suspended. An offender may be ordered to pay restitution. They face a driving suspension with participation in an ignition interlock program. The period for the ignition interlock varies from 6 months to life, depending on the offender’s prior convictions.

Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Treatment for DUAC Offenders

All offenders must enroll in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. They must complete a substance abuse assessment. A treatment plan will be developed. The applicant must pay costs of education and treatment, up to statutory maximums. A person may not be denied participation for inability to pay.

Understanding Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Content in South Carolina

When a person is charged with driving with unlawful alcohol content, the allegation is that they drove over the legal limit for alcohol. The charge doesn’t require any proof that the person’s driving was influenced by alcohol, only that a certain amount of alcohol was in their body.

It’s not how much alcohol a person consumes. Rather, it’s how the body metabolizes alcohol into the bloodstream. Two people could consume the same amount of alcohol, with only one being over the legal limit.

DUAC example

A driver is pulled over for a broken taillight. When speaking with the driver, the officer smells alcohol.

The driver takes an alcohol breath test, revealing an alcohol content of .10. The driver may be charged with driving with an unlawful alcohol content, even though there is no evidence that alcohol influenced their ability to drive.

DUI example

A driver weaves over the centerline. They are slow to stop their vehicle at a stop sign. A law enforcement officer stops the vehicle. They administer a breath test, with a result of .06. The driver may be charged with driving under the influence, but not DUAC. This is because their alcohol content, by itself, is not unlawful.

When a driver’s bodily alcohol content is .08 or higher, they may be charged with DUI or DUAC.

Defenses to DUAC in South Carolina

Here are some defenses to DUAC in South Carolina:

  • You did not drive a motor vehicle.
  • Law enforcement did not lawfully detain you.
  • The period between driving and the chemical test makes the results unreliable.
  • You were not given verbal and written notice of your chemical testing rights.
  • The test administrator was not qualified.
  • The machine wasn’t working properly.
  • Protocols for test administration were violated.
  • Machine maintenance wasn’t performed.
  • You never consented to taking a chemical test.
  • Test results show that your bodily alcohol content was not unlawful.
  • You performed well on standardized field sobriety tests. Alternatively, law enforcement did not administer standardized field sobriety tests, or they administered them improperly, calling the test results into question.

Even though people are arrested for DUAC every day in South Carolina, a DUAC investigation is complex.

Breath testing machines must be calibrated and maintained. Law enforcement officers must be trained to use them, and they must administer the test correctly. Errors may mean that the evidence against you is unpersuasive.

Attorneys Fighting DUAC Charges

As attorneys for DUAC charges, we aggressively fight the charges against you. Being charged does not mean that you are guilty. We can raise the appropriate defenses, including cross-examination and presentation of evidence to call the reliability of chemical testing into question. We may motion to the court to exclude chemical test results and other evidence.

There may be multiple legal strategies and approaches to fight DUAC charges. We’ll build your defenses and explain the options. For each client we serve, we provide aggressive legal representation considering the unique circumstances and the interests of the client.

Talk to an Attorney

Are you facing DUAC charges in South Carolina? They’re different from DUI charges. Talk to Shealey Law Firm. We understand the differences, and we can assist you in preparing your defense.

Call 803-590-3917 or message us now to discuss your case.


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