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DUI vs. DWI in SC: What’s the Difference? 2024

DUI vs. DWI in SC: What’s the Difference? 2024
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

Drunk driving is perhaps the most harshly penalized traffic violation that a driver can commit. Even first-time offenders could receive jail time. A South Carolina DUI attorney can help defend those who are facing charges, and there are a number of different defensive strategies available.

It’s important, though, to understand exactly what you’re charged with. The two most common terms you will hear related to drunk driving charges are “DUI” and “DWI.” It’s helpful to recognize the difference between these terms.

What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in South Carolina?

While it’s common to hear the term “drunk driving” to describe an intoxicated driver, there’s no law under that name. A driver who’s intoxicated is charged with a violation under the names of either “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). In some states, these two terms are used interchangeably. In others, there are slight distinctions between the two terms.

In South Carolina, the appropriate name is driving under the influence, or DUI. The state doesn’t have any violation by the name of driving while intoxicated, or DWI. While you may see the term DWI occasionally used in South Carolina, whoever is using the term likely means DUI.

South Carolina does have another violation for these situations, which is “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration,” or DUAC. The difference between a DUI and a DUAC is that, where a DUI requires a demonstration of impairment, a DUAC can be given when someone is above the legal blood alcohol concentration, even if there is no impairment.

In many other states, this is considered a “per se” DUI but, in South Carolina, it’s a separate charge. However, despite having a different name, there is practically very little difference between the two charges. They generally carry the same penalties.

What Is DUI in South Carolina?

In general terms, a DUI in South Carolina is given when drugs or alcohol in someone’s system is causing their ability to drive and operate a vehicle safely to be impaired. There are a few different behaviors that could result in a DUI charge in South Carolina.

In most cases, a DUI will result because of a driver’s blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. These are usually determined based on a chemical test that is administered to a driver. Drivers on South Carolina roads are expected to take these tests upon request, as the state is an implied consent state. This means that, by making use of the state’s road, you are considered to have already consented to this measure, even if you did not expressly state so.

For any driver who is 21 years of age or older, a BAC of 0.08% or above is going to be considered a DUI. However, for those under 21, South Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy, which means that any amount of alcohol detected in their system is considered to be above the legal limit. If a driver is involved in commercial activity, then the threshold drops to a BAC of 0.04%. Even if a driver is not above the threshold, if their driving is determined to be impaired by the presence of alcohol, they may be charged with a DUI.

A DUI may also be given for other factors as well. In particular, if drugs are determined to cause a person’s driving to be impaired, this is also considered a DUI. This could include illegal drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs.


Q: How Can a South Carolina DUI Lawyer Help?

A: A South Carolina DUI lawyer can be critical to ensuring that you get a strong defense against DUI charges. They can research your case, prepare an appropriate defense, and execute that defense while representing you and advocating for you before the court. They can also help you examine the legal options in your situation, including whether taking a plea deal is more beneficial in your case.

Q: Can You Fight DUI Charges in South Carolina?

A: It is possible to challenge DUI charges in South Carolina. There are a few different strategies for doing so, including challenging:

  • The handling of evidence and testing
  • The validity of the tests
  • Other procedural issues
  • Whether the officer even had sufficient cause for pulling you over

A South Carolina DUI lawyer can help put together and execute the most appropriate strategy for your defense, given the particulars of your situation.

Q: What Is Driving With an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration?

A: Driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, or DUAC, is a very similar charge to a DUI. However, it doesn’t require that there be any clear impairment from the alcohol that a person has consumed. This is a “per se” charge, where merely having a test result showing a BAC above the legal limit is sufficient for a conviction.

While there may be this slight technical difference between a DUI and a DUAC, the reality is that the two charges are penalized the same, and there is little difference in how they are handled from a legal perspective.

Q: What Is Implied Consent?

A: Implied consent is a concept that relates to the issue of taking a test to check your blood alcohol concentration. Normally, you would need to expressly consent to that kind of medical test. However, in an implied consent state, such as South Carolina, the act of driving on the roads is considered as giving your consent to take such a test upon request.

A South Carolina DUI Lawyer Can Fight the Charges Against You

There are significant penalties for DUI charges. For a first-time conviction, you can expect to face a stiff fine, license suspension, and even jail time. Repeat offenders are likely to face even more significant penalties. The same is true if a DUI contributed to an accident.

While it may feel like it’s impossible to win a case against DUI charges, there are quite a few viable defense options. A good South Carolina DUI lawyer can help put together a defense strategy that is right for your situation. Contact Axelrod & Associates today to discuss the charges you face and how you might be able to better your odds of avoiding a conviction.

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