What’s the legal limit for driving under the influence (DUI) in SC? How much alcohol is too much?
Although most people will tell you that the legal limit is .08, it’s not that simple. DUAC (driving under an unlawful alcohol concentration) charges can be brought if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or greater, but you are not automatically guilty.
And, if you are charged with DUI (driving under the influence), there is no legal limit – you could have a result of .20 on the breathalyzer and be found not guilty because you were not intoxicated to the extent that it materially and appreciably impaired your faculties to drive…
DUAC: There is a Legal Limit in SC
Although there is no “legal limit” for DUI charges, there is a legal limit of .08 if you are charged with DUAC, or “DUI per se.”
SC’s DUAC law says that it 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.”
Unlike DUI charges, you can be found guilty of DUAC if 1) the state has a BAC result from the breathalyzer, urinalysis, or a blood test, and 2) the result was .08 or greater. This seems like it would be a slam-dunk for a prosecutor, but there are reasons most defendants are charged with plain-Jane DUI instead of DUAC.
Of course, if there is no breathalyzer result, you cannot be charged with DUAC. If you refused the breathalyzer (as you almost always should), you can only be charged with DUI because it will be impossible to prove your BAC without test results.
Are You Automatically Guilty if Your BAC is Over the Legal Limit?
You are not automatically guilty of DUAC if you took the test and the result was over the “legal limit.”
You can still challenge the test results. For one thing, the state may need to bring an expert witness to your trial if you intend to challenge the machine’s results. They might just do that, but it certainly makes their job more difficult.
You can also attempt to get your case dismissed based on the officer’s failure to follow SC’s mandatory videotape requirements or to get the test results excluded based on the officer’s failure to follow SC’s implied consent laws or SLED’s policy and procedure during the breath test procedure or blood sample collection.
The DUAC law contains a list of specific challenges that you can make to the breath test procedure, and it contains a list of evidence that you can introduce at trial to challenge the test results.
The result may have been “over the legal limit,” but reasonable jurors may not convict you if those results appear to be wrong based on:
- Additional BAC tests,
- Your performance of the field sobriety tests (FSTs) on camera,
- Your conduct on the roadside or Datamaster room video,
- Testimony by your “sobriety witnesses” about how much you had to drink and your appearance before the arrest, or
- Any other evidence that would call the test results into question.
Because of the difficulties in proving a DUAC charge, most people are instead charged with DUI, which does not have a “legal limit…”
There is no Legal Limit for DUI in SC
SC’s DUI statute does not say, “you are guilty if your BAC was .08 or greater.”
It does say:
It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.
To convict a person of DUI, the state must prove that 1) you were driving, 2) while intoxicated on alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, 3) to the extent that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
Each element must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
- Passed out behind the wheel with a BAC of .20 but no one saw you driving? Not guilty.
- No evidence of intoxication on alcohol or drugs? Not guilty.
- You were drinking but your faculties to drive were not materially and appreciably impaired? Not guilty.
It is not illegal to drink and drive in SC.
It is illegal to drink and drive when your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired…
So, if there is no legal limit for DUI in SC, what effect does the breathalyzer result have on your case?
Inferences Based on Your BAC Result
The breathalyzer result is not irrelevant – if you took the test and if we cannot get the results excluded, it could be the best evidence the state has to prove that your faculties to drive were materially and appreciably impaired.
SC’s implied consent law provides for “inferences” that can be drawn based on your breathalyzer result:
- .05 or less: it is conclusively presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcohol,
- More than .05 but less than .08: no inference either way, and
- .08 or greater: an inference (not a conclusive presumption) that the person was under the influence of alcohol.
If your BAC result was .08 or greater, the jury can infer that you were under the influence of alcohol, but then you can cross-examine the state’s witnesses and introduce your own witnesses to prove that your faculties to drive were not materially and appreciably impaired despite the breathalyzer result.
Questions About the Legal Limit for DUI in SC?
If you have been charged with DUI or DUAC in Myrtle Beach, SC, call your SC DUI lawyer at Coastal Law immediately. We will help you to understand what your potential defenses will be once we have obtained all evidence from the prosecutor and conducted an independent investigation of your case.
Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or send us an email message to speak with a SC DUI lawyer today.