Should You Plead Guilty to DUAC in South Carolina?

Our DUI lawyers in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina rarely recommend that our clients plea to a charge of Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (DUAC). DUAC is similar to the charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The main difference is that to be convicted for DUAC, the prosecution must prove a driver was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater. To convict a driver of DUI, the prosecution must prove that the driver’s faculties to operate a vehicle were materially and appreciably impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of substances. However, the penalties for these offenses are virtually identical. For example:

  1. Neither charge is eligible for expungement from your criminal record.
  2. The fines and/or jail sentences are identical.
  3. The charges have the same impact on your driving privileges.
  4. Both offenses require the offender to complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP).
  5. Both offenses require a driver to have SR-22 insurance for 3 years.
  6. Both charges may enhance a subsequent arrest for either DUAC or DUI to a second offense, causing it to be prosecuted in General Sessions Court.

Is Pleading Guilty to a DUAC in South Carolina a Good Deal?

Despite the overwhelming similarities in these two offenses, prosecutors frequently offer the chance to plead guilty to DUAC in court in exchange for a dismissal of a DUI charge. These prosecutors suggest that the benefit of this “deal” is that the DUAC charge will not show up on the client’s criminal records that are kept by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Essentially, unless you were jailed and fingerprinted (“booked”) for the charge, then there is no criminal record of it. So, in theory, if you accept a DUAC “deal,” and because you aren’t booked a second time for DUAC charge, SLED will have no criminal record of it. However, this deal is not as good as it sounds for several reasons. First, many courts will not allow the arresting officer to dismiss the DUI ticket and reissue a ticket for DUAC in court. Instead, the court writes “DUAC” on the back of the DUI ticket, the DUI ticket is sent by the court to SLED, and the DUAC charge then shows up on your criminal record. Second, even if the ticket is rewritten, the penalties are relatively the same as discussed above. Third, if you refused a breath test or tested at .15% or greater, then your driving record will still have evidence of the charge.

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