As criminal defense lawyers in Charleston, we’ve represented many people who’ve been charged with Driving Under Suspension in South Carolina. We’ve written this article to explain the charge of driving under suspension (DUS), to give information regarding revoked licenses and habitual traffic offenders, and to provide options to help you avoid getting charged with DUS.
How Can My license Be Suspended in South Carolina?
There are a number of ways your license can be suspended in South Carolina. The most common we see result from convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC), failure to pay traffic tickets (NRVC), failure to stop for a blue light, hit and run, racing on a public road, 2nd offense reckless driving, and child support arrearages.
What Happens If You Drive on a Suspended License in South Carolina?
First, you can be charged criminally. If the suspension is not DUI or DUAC-related, a first offense carries a fine or imprisonment of up to 30 days or both. A second offense carries a fine or imprisonment of up to 60 days or both. A third or subsequent offense carries a fine and imprisonment of up to 90 days or home detention of 90 to 180 days. If the suspension is DUI or DUAC-related, a first offense carries a fine or imprisonment of between 10 and 30 days. A second offense carries a fine or imprisonment of 60 days up to 180 days. A third or subsequent offense carries a fine and imprisonment of no less than 6 months, up to 3 years.
Second, a conviction will suspend your license further. Generally, the suspension period will be the same as the original suspension period. So, if you’re suspended for 6 months and have a DUS offense that results in a conviction, then you’ll be suspended for an additional 6 months. If your original suspension wasn’t for a particular time period, then generally the new suspension will be for 90 days.
Can I Drive in South Carolina After My Suspension Period is Over?
No. This is where a lot of our clients got themselves in hot water and needed us in the first place. They thought that just because their suspension period ended, they were safe to drive. That’s not the case. After your suspension period is over, you have to get your driver’s license reinstated with the DMV. This could be as simple as paying $100 reinstatement fee or can be a lot more intensive, such as enrolling in ADSAP, carrying SR-22 insurance, clearing up driving issues in another state, or paying off old, unpaid traffic tickets. The best way is to check with the DMV and find out what your “Reinstatement Requirements” or “Conditions of Reinstatement.” You can obtain this information online, over the telephone, or in-person at a local DMV branch.
What if My License is Revoked in South Carolina?
It all depends on the reason for the revocation, but it might be possible to get the license back. It may require a court case. Even if your license was permanently revoked, you might qualify to get it back after 7 years. If your license has been revoked, contact the attorneys and Futeral & Nelson to find out if, when, and how you can get it back.
What is a Habitual Offender in South Carolina?
A habitual offender (also called “habitual traffic offender”) is someone who has had 10 “minor offenses” within a 3-year window or 3 “major offenses” within a 3-year window. You calculate each offense by the date the ticket was originally written, not the date of conviction. If multiple violations occurred on the same day, you only count those offenses as one. “Minor offenses” are ones that carry 4 or more points against your driver’s license. The “major offenses” are:
- Voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or reckless homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
- Reckless driving
- Driving while suspended for failure to file proof of financial responsibility
- Felonies involving motor vehicles
- Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death
Habitual offenders can lose their licenses for FIVE years! However, it is IMPORTANT TO KNOW that someone declared a habitual offender can petition to get their license back after two years. We can help you make this petition and represent you at your hearing. If you’re a habitual offender who is nearing or past the 2-year mark, schedule an appointment with us to see how we can help you get your license back. This type of case is called a “habitual offender reduction.” You can only try it once, so make sure you get it right and do not go unrepresented.
It is important to know that if you are convicted of driving while being a habitual offender, you will be guilty of a felony and can be imprisoned for up to 5 years.
What Are My Options if My License is Suspended or Revoked in South Carolina?
Just because you don’t have a regular driver’s license, you might still have options. Consider each of the following:
- Provisional license. If you are suspended due to DUI or DUAC, you might qualify for a provisional license, which is nice because it has no restrictions.
- Ignition interlock device. Beginning October 1, 2014, some DUI and DUAC offenders can have their suspension reduced by agreeing to enter into the ignition interlock program.
- Route restricted license. Some offenders may be able to get a route restricted license, which only allows them to drive during certain times and to certain places. They usually only let you drive to school, work, or court-ordered drug and alcohol classes. If you get one of these licenses and get caught driving outside of your permitted route or permitted times, you can be charged with DUS.
- Moped. You don’t have to have a driver’s license to drive a moped. We will discuss mopeds in more detail a little further down.
- Taxi. Expensive when it’s your primary source of transportation, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.
- Public transportation. Don’t forget that a bus route may be nearby.
- Friends and family. What are our loved ones for anyway?
- Walk/Bicycle. We have talked to many folks with suspended licenses who have actually enjoyed the fact that they are walking and biking more frequently, except when it rains.
Please consider each of these options and don’t get caught in what the lawyer’s here call the “snowball.” Since DUS’s cause suspension times to be extended, licenses to be taken away, or people to be designated as habitual offenders, sometimes that first small suspension snowballs out of control. Next thing you know, a few cab rides could have saved you thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees or even jail time.
May I Drive a Moped if My License is Suspended in South Carolina?
A moped is defined by statute as “every cycle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power or without pedal and with a motor of not more than fifty cubic centimeters which produces not to exceed two brake horsepower and which is not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed in excess of thirty miles an hour on level ground.” If an internal combustion engine is used, the moped must have a power drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.
- Passengers: A person must ride on the permanent, regular seat attached to the moped. You can’t have passengers unless the moped is designed and equipped for passengers.
- Equipment: The moped must have operable pedals if equipped with pedals. It must have at least one rearview mirror, operable running lights, and brake lights.
- Lights: The moped must have operating lights turned on at all times the moped is operating on public roads.
- Labeling: A moped without pedals must display the metal identification plate attached to the vehicle.
If your suspension is for 6 months or less, you don’t need to get a moped license during the period of suspension. If you are suspended for more than 6 months, then you need to get a moped license from the DMV. A person is eligible for a moped operator’s license even if the person’s regular license is suspended. The DMV can only suspend someone’s moped operator’s license for violations committed while operating a moped. Moped drivers need to follow all of the laws that apply to other vehicles when traveling on public roads.
Can I Drive a Golf Cart if My License is Suspended in South Carolina?
There is not a clear answer to this question, but it is our opinion that you can get convicted of DUS for driving a golf cart. Our law defines “motor vehicle” as: “Every vehicle which is self-propelled, except mopeds, and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails, is a “motor vehicle.” It is illegal to drive a “motor vehicle” on a suspended license, so you risk prosecution if you drive a golf cart on a suspended license since the golf cart is “self-propelled.”