Is there a “legal limit” for driving under the influence in South Carolina?
Technically, there is no legal limit for DUI in South Carolina…
There is a “legal limit” of .08 BAC, however, for driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), or SC’s “per se” DUI law. There is also a “rebuttable inference” that a person is driving under the influence if they are charged with DUI and their breathalyzer or other alcohol test result is .08 or greater.
In this article, we will discuss South Carolina’s legal limit for DUI, including:
- Why there is no “legal limit” for DUI,
- The inferences under SC law based on breathalyzer results, and
- The elements of a DUAC charge in South Carolina.
The Elements of DUI in SC (There is no Legal Limit)
Although some people are charged with DUAC in SC, the more common charge is driving under the influence (DUI), and you may be surprised to learn that there is no legal limit for DUI in SC.
Under SC Code § 56-5-2930, to get a DUI conviction, the state must prove that a person was:
- Driving – the car must be in motion and under the defendant’s control,
- While intoxicated – intoxication could be from alcohol, other drugs, or a combination of alcohol and other drugs,
- To the extent that their faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired – although the person could have a BAC of .08 or greater, it is not required for a DUI conviction.
The defendant could have a BAC of .07, and, along with other evidence of intoxication from other drugs, be convicted of driving under the influence.
Or a defendant could have a BAC of .15, and, if the jury finds that they were not intoxicated to the extent that their faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired, be found not guilty of driving under the influence.
The Inferences Based Upon the Breathalyzer Result
If there is no legal limit, what difference does the breathalyzer result make?
SC Code § 56-5-2950 provides for an “inference” that a person is under the influence (or not) when they are charged with DUI, DUAC, or felony DUI, based on the breathalyzer result:
- .05 or less: It is conclusively presumed that the person is not under the influence of alcohol,
- More than .05 but less than .08: There is no inference either way, and
- .08 or more: A rebuttable inference that the person was under the influence of alcohol.
What is an inference?
It means that the jurors can find that the defendant is guilty of DUI based on the breathalyzer result, but the defendant can rebut the inference by presenting evidence that they were not under the influence to the extent that their faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
The Elements of DUAC in SC (The Legal Limit is .08)
When we are talking about charges for driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC) in SC, there is a “legal limit.”
SC Code § 56-5-2933 says, “[i]t is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while his alcohol concentration is eight one-hundredths of one percent or more.”
It doesn’t matter if the person was intoxicated to the extent that their faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired – it only matters if they took the breathalyzer or another alcohol test and the result was .08 or greater.
Why Aren’t More People Charged with DUAC?
It sounds like it would be easier to get a DUAC conviction, yet defendants are charged with “ordinary” DUI more often than DUAC in SC.
When a person is charged with DUAC, there must be a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test result.
If the result is suppressed before trial, the state loses because they cannot prove the person’s BAC was .08 or greater.
And, if the result is not suppressed before trial, the state will most likely need to bring an expert witness from SLED to win their case, which is more trouble than it is worth for them in most cases.
What Should You Do if You are Charged with DUI or DUAC in Conway, SC, Myrtle Beach, SC, or Horry County, SC?
Call a local DUI lawyer immediately – a DUI attorney who knows the local courts, judges, attorneys, prosecutors, and courtroom procedures, and an attorney who has extensive experience defending DUI cases in South Carolina.
When you call Johnny Gardner for help with your DUI charges, we will investigate your case, request a jury trial when appropriate, request an implied consent hearing when appropriate, negotiate with your prosecutor, get your case dismissed, find a resolution that you agree with, or take your case to trial.
DUI Lawyer in Conway, SC
If you have been charged with DUI or DUAC in Myrtle Beach, Conway, or anywhere in the Horry County area, you may have valid defenses to the charge or there may be grounds to get your case dismissed.
Contact DUI Defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner now at (843) 248-7135 for a free consultation to find out how we can help.