5 Serious Implications of DUI Conviction in South Carolina

You are arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Charleston, SC. You should simply pay the fine, right? Not so fast. Before you do anything, think about the potential ramifications that a DUI conviction may have on your life.  Right off the bat, if you plead guilty you will pay a fine of at least $992 plus court fees. You will also need to obtain SR-22 insurance $1500-$1800 a year for the next three years. It will cost you $200 at the DMV for reinstatement fees and costs to obtain your route restricted driver’s license. You will also need to enroll and complete ADSAP at a minimum of $500. You are looking at over $6,000 in fines and associated costs just for pleading guilty to DUI 1st!

*Rates vary on SR-22 insurance by carrier and by applicant and DUI fines depend on if you refuse or level of blood alcohol content if you choose to give a breath sample.

1) Insurance/ADSAP/and Route Restricted License: Loss or Limitations of Driving Privilege Beyond the Fines.

I have helped a good deal of people over the years with DUI and alcohol related charges. The most common initial concerns deal with their ability to drive. The majority of us are dependent on our vehicles to earn a living. The loss or limitation of your ability to drive means more than just a fine and a night and jail. You may find yourself jobless if you cannot legally operate a motor vehicle due to a DUI or DUI related charge or conviction.

Your insurance company can drop you from their coverage after you are convicted or plea to a charge of Driving Under the influence. Well, I can still drive right? You must locate an insurance company and obtain SR-22 insurance, enroll in an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (aka ADSAP), and demonstrate proof of the same before you are eligible to receive a route restricted license. A route restricted license limits your driving privilege to driving to and from work or school. You may also only drive to and from your ADSAP classes. If your job requires you to drive with flexibility of travel or out of state this license can prove to be very problematic.

2) Work and Work related impact of Driving Under the Influence

Beyond the privilege of driving, a DUI conviction could spell other potential problems for your career or job. Consider this for a moment. What will your employer do when they find out you have been not only arrested, but convicted for Driving Under the Influence? Many jobs require that you have a perfect driving record for their insurance purposes. You heard me correctly.

A conviction for DUI is a misdemeanor crime punishable with a fine or up to 30 days in jail. Many companies perform annual renewal reviews on their employees for insurance and employment purposes. What happens when the conviction shows up on your driving record or annual review? Your conviction could raise your employer’s premium rates, affect their ability to obtain coverage, and/or keep you from performing necessary duties related to your employment.

Certain jobs also require a security clearance, or renewal of annual work contracts for employment or necessary travel. Some jobs are contingent on a clean criminal and driving records. Your job may require, or maybe your entire career, may require that you maintain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a DUI conviction may cost you your career.

3) The Snowball effect of future DUI and related offenses convictions: Felony Status/Habitual Offender/ Ignition Interlock device

You went ahead and plead guilty without consulting an attorney. You thought it was all over after you paid the fine. The penalties and ancillary consequences for future convictions are even stiffer. It is not uncommon for an individual to drive for many years, if not the majority of their lives, before they are arrested for their first DUI.  

According to South Carolina Code §56-5-2930(A)(2):

A 2nd conviction for Driving Under the Influence is a felony offense and carries a minimum $2100 fine 5 days in jail with a maximum fine of $5,500 and up to 2 years in jail. Those figures also do not account for the court fees and assessments that are commonly added.

The 1st DUI that you plead guilty to a few years (or upwards of 10 years ago) ago was only a misdemeanor. Your second DUI conviction makes you a felon. You heard me correctly. As a convicted felon, you lose your ability to vote and possibly earn a living. At the very least, you now have a lot of explaining to do to your boss on an annual performance review or when applying for new jobs. Well, Webb, I am self-employed. Well, good luck maintaining your professional licenses, getting insurance, and maintaining insurance on your company vehicle with a felony DUI record.

Your second conviction also means that you have your second strike against your driving record. If the second DUI conviction came within 3 years of your last DUI conviction you fall into the category of Habitual Offender.

Habitual Offender Status means the loss of your driving privilege for a 5 year period. You can appeal after 2 years but you will not have any access to driving privilege during the first 2 years guaranteed.

According to South Carolina Code § 56-1-1020. "Habitual offender" and "conviction" defined.

An habitual offender shall mean any person whose record as maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles shows that he has accumulated the convictions for separate and distinct offenses described in subsections (a), (b) and (c) committed during a three-year period;

(a) Three or more convictions, singularly or in combination of any of the following separate and distinct offenses arising out of separate acts:

(1) Voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide;

(2) Driving Under the Influence (DUI, or aka DWI in other states) or Driving With and Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC);

(3) Reckless Driving;

(4) Driving Under Suspension or without Insurance;

4) Education impact of DUI and DUI conviction

You may be thinking that you can just pay the fine for your DUI 1st, take an alcohol class (ADSAP), and obtain some SR-22 and put this whole mess behind you, right?

It seems like more and more people are going to college and grad school than ever. If you are a high school students applying for loan assistance for college, or current recipient of lottery tuition assistance you need to pay attention to this portion in particular. Loan Applications and College applications have a section designated for school disciplinary issues and criminal records. An alcohol related conviction may prejudice you when it comes down to subjective review of your application on college tuition and acceptance.

In fact, according to the South Carolina Commission for Higher Learning,

Students who have been adjudicated delinquent or have been convicted or pled guilty to a second or subsequent alcohol or other drug-related misdemeanor offense are ineligible for the LIFE Scholarship and/or LIFE Scholarship Enhancement for one academic year after the adjudication, conviction, or plea occurred. The student will lose eligibility the next academic year immediately following conviction and will lose the Scholarship and Enhancement for the fall and spring terms.

Well, can’t I just have my record expunged and the school will not find out? Maybe, but a conviction for Driving Under the Influence is part of your permanent arrest record and is not eligible to be expunged. Furthermore, it will remain part of your driving record for 10 years!

You may be thinking that you can just take PTI. That is also not true. DUI is not eligible in South Carolina for Pre-Trial Intervention.

5) Permanent Record/Stigma

You messed up 10 years ago and you are applying for a promotion or job transfer and your employer or potential employer asks you to submit to a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) back ground check. If you refuse, you will not likely get the job. When it comes back your log forgotten past may come back to haunt you with the loss of present job opportunity. It is a competitive job market out there. A candidate applying for the same job as you without a criminal record may have an edge on you.

Consider this as well; you just put a ton of money in pursuing a degree in which you need to become licensed in order to earn a living. If you are a graduate in the medical field, legal community, or other licensing profession, you will likely have an application that goes before a committee to decide your character and fitness. Your old DUI conviction(s) could keep you from pursuing your dreams.

Most of us will never apply for political office, or take a post with a state affiliated board of directors. However, those positions require squeaky clean backgrounds. Past convictions, even if disclosed, can keep you out of public office.

Don’t drink and drive and always be responsible when operating a motor vehicle. Remember, a mistake today can impact you many years down the road.  So, if you find yourself faced with a DUI or criminal charge please consult an experienced attorney in order to discuss your rights.

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