3 factors that can lead to a felony DUI in South Carolina

There are several factors that will immediately elevate a misdemeanor DUI to become a felony charge.

In early September of this year, a 23-year-old woman was driving eastbound on Interstate 26 near Lexington, South Carolina. Law enforcement officers report that the woman struck an SUV, which veered off the road and overturned. As a result of the incident, a 21-year-old died from her injuries.

The 23-year-old was charged with a felony DUI in connection with the incident. There are several factors that can cause a drunk driving incident in South Carolina to become a felony, and those are the following:

1. Death or bodily injury

South Carolina law states that when a drunk driver causes the death or great bodily injury of another person, he or she has committed a felony. The law defines great bodily injury as an injury that causes one of the following:

  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Loss or impairment of an organ or bodily member
  • An increased risk of death

That charge can carry with it mandatory prison time of at least 30 days with the possibility of up to 15 years. A fine of between $5,100 and $10,100 may also be assessed.

2. A minor passenger

If a person driving a vehicle is legally intoxicated and has a passenger who is younger than 16, he or she may be charged with child endangerment in addition to the DUI. That charge will automatically become a felony if the child is seriously injured or killed. The law states that the penalties for the charge includes imprisonment of up to half the time associated with the DUI charge and a fine of up to half the maximum fine associated with the DUI.

3. A third offense

South Carolina automatically categorizes a person's third DUI offense as a felony. The consequences of a third DUI conviction include as much as three years in prison as well as fines for up to $12,000 when the driver's blood alcohol content is less than 0.10. These penalties may be enhanced for higher blood alcohol content levels.

Administrative and other penalties

There are a number of administrative penalties that may be assigned to someone who has been convicted of a felony DUI. For example, as the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles notes, anyone who has a second offense DUI will face an indefinite license suspension period. Even a first offense could lead to a license suspension of six months.

A DUI conviction will also lead to higher auto insurance premiums. Many people will have to obtain a SR-22 insurance certificate when they want to have their licenses reinstated. Further, a drunk driving conviction is a permanent part of someone's criminal record, which can create problems when it comes to finding suitable housing and employment.

Anyone who is facing a DUI charge should take building a defense seriously. People who have questions about these issues should consult with an attorney.