As DUI defense attorneys in Charleston, we frequently get questions from lawyers in other states when a South Carolina resident gets a DUI in another state. They want to know what will happen to the person’s driver’s license in South Carolina because that is usually more important than what the person’s home state does before agreeing to a plea deal. In this article, we examine the laws and the procedures for South Carolina drivers who get a DUI in another state.
Implied Consent in South Carolina for Out-of-State Drivers
In South Carolina, there are certain consequences when a person gets arrested for DUI and refuses to blow into the Breathalyzer or blows too high of a reading. These are called our “implied consent” laws, and we describe the consequences here. In some states, refusal of the breathalyzer is a separate criminal offense. In South Carolina, it can cause an administrative suspension of the driver’s license and has no impact on the DUI charge. The bottom line, and the good news, is that South Carolina does NOT recognize out-of-state implied consent violations.
Clearing Up the Out-of-State Suspension
South Carolina is part of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. Most of the 50 states have adopted the compact. If the person gets a DUI in one of these states and the outcome results in a suspension from that state, South Carolina will require the person to clear up the suspension in the other state AND meet all of the reinstatement requirements in South Carolina before freeing up the suspension.
Conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or a Similar Charge
There are many terms for driving under the influence (DUI) used by other states. Some call them Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired (DWI). Some call them Operating While Intoxicated or Operating While Impaired (OWI). There are other names as well. Even in South Carolina, we have another offense called Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC) that has identical consequences to a DUI.
So, if a South Carolina driver is arrested for OWI in Ohio or DWI in North Carolina, that person’s lawyer will be able to advise the driver as to consequences in that state, but South Carolina’s DMV may impose additional consequences as well.
If a person is convicted of another state’s DUI or DUAC equivalent charge, South Carolina’s DMV will:
- Suspend the person for six months if it is a DUI 1st offense within the past 10 years. This can be complicated because if the person got a DUI in another state before that person moved to South Carolina, the DMV might not know about it. However, that person should not absolutely count on this happening. Sometimes DMV’s find out about things after the fact. If it is a second offense within the past 10 years, the suspension will be for 1 year. Third offense – 2 years, or 4 years if within 5 years of the first DUI. Fourth or subsequent offense, say bye-bye to your driver’s license for at least 7 years, possibly forever. When we determine whether offenses are within 5 or 10 years, we use the violation dates (arrest dates), NOT the conviction dates.
- Require the person to take ADSAP. This class generally requires 8 weeks of alcohol counseling (possibly longer depending on the initial assessment), requires drug tests during the program, and costs about $500 over the course of the program.
- If it is a DUI 1st offense, and the person blew but had a reading of less than 0.15%, the person will likely qualify for a “provisional” driver’s license to drive during the suspension. The provisional license is different from a “route restricted” license which only allows the person to drive to work, school, or certain alcohol classes. For this reason, it is better for the person’s driving privileges to plead guilty to a DUI that has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 than guilty to a DUI with a refusal.
- The person might be subject to the ignition interlock program under Emma’s Law.
- The person will have to carry SR-22 insurance for 3 years.
In South Carolina, a common resolution for a DUI case is for the defendant to plead guilty to reckless driving. This causes 6 points to be assessed against the person’s driver’s license. If the person accumulates 12 points at any given time, the person will receive a 90-day suspension. We describe the points system in more detail here.
Also, if a person receives two (2) reckless driving violations within a 5-year period, the person is suspended for 90 days. When we determine whether offenses are within 5 years, we use the violation dates (arrest dates), NOT the conviction dates.
If your state has a charge that is not akin to DUI or reckless driving, it can sometimes be difficult to determine how South Carolina will handle it. In these instances, it may be best to contact a lawyer for the DMV and try to get assistance. Unfortunately, a clear answer can’t always be obtained until after the plea goes on the record.
Possible Collateral Consequence of Becoming a Habitual Traffic Offender
If a person gets three (3) “major” violations in a 3-year period, the person will be deemed a Habitual Traffic Offender. The most common “major” violations are DUI, reckless driving, and DUS (driving under suspension). When we determine whether offenses are within 3 years, we use the violation dates (arrest dates), NOT the conviction dates. We describe habitual traffic offenders here.
Also, DUI is an “enhancement” offense, which means if a person gets more than one in a 10-year period, they will be charged with DUI 2nd offense, or 3rd, and the criminal and driving consequences are much greater. Out-of-state convictions count and are routinely discovered by our law enforcement officers.