2024 BAC Limits for South Carolina Drivers

Drink and drive laws in South Carolina

In South Carolina, driving is considered illegal if your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches or surpasses 0.08%, equivalent to 80 milliliters of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Yet, it’s important to note that you can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) even with a BAC below 0.08% if evidence shows that alcohol has impaired your ability to drive.

Before we further discuss the impaired driving laws in South Carolina, it is essential to be aware that this post aims to raise awareness about drunk driving. This site does not encourage driving under the influence in any state or region.

What is the legal alcohol limit for driving in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the legal alcohol limit for drivers varies depending on the type of license and the driver’s age. These regulations are in place to ensure the safety of all road users by imposing stricter limits on those who may be more at risk of impairment or are in positions requiring higher responsibility. Here’s a breakdown of the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits for different categories of drivers:

  • Regular Drivers: The legal BAC limit is 0.08%. This applies to the majority of drivers operating personal vehicles on the road.
  • Commercial Drivers: Individuals holding a commercial driver’s license are subject to a lower BAC limit of 0.04%, reflecting the higher standards expected due to the nature of their driving tasks and the vehicles they operate.
  • Minors (Under 21): South Carolina enforces a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. It is illegal for minors to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, emphasizing the state’s commitment to preventing underage drinking and driving.

Drink and Drive Penalties and Punishments in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the law strictly prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs to the extent that it significantly impairs one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The severity of DUI penalties and punishments is determined by the level of the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the offense and the number of prior DUI convictions within a ten-year period. Here’s a summary of the penalties and punishments for DUI offenses in South Carolina:

  • First Offense:
    • Standard BAC (<0.10%): A fine of $400 or imprisonment for 48 hours to 30 days. Optional 48 hours of public service employment may replace minimum imprisonment.
    • BAC 0.10% – 0.15%: A fine of $500 or imprisonment for 72 hours to 30 days. Optional 72 hours of public service employment may replace minimum imprisonment.
    • BAC ≥0.16%: A fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 30 days to 90 days. Optional 30 days of public service employment may replace minimum imprisonment.
  • Second Offense:
    • Fines range from $2,100 to $6,500 and imprisonment from 5 days to 3 years, depending on the BAC level. The fine cannot be suspended below $1,100.
  • Third Offense:
    • Fines range from $3,800 to $10,000 and imprisonment from 60 days to 5 years, based on the BAC level.
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense:
    • Imprisonment ranges from 1 year to 7 years, again depending on the BAC level at the time of the offense.

It’s crucial to understand that the minimum sentences cannot be suspended, and for second or subsequent offenses, the service of the minimum sentence is mandatory. Additionally, every DUI conviction requires enrollment and successful completion of an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program.

Given the complexity of DUI laws and the severity of penalties involved, it’s essential for South Carolina residents and visitors to familiarize themselves with these laws and remain updated on any changes. The official state website provides the most current information regarding DUI laws and penalties. It is advisable to consult it frequently to ensure compliance and understand the legal implications of driving under the influence in South Carolina.

Calculating Your Legal Alcohol Limit in South Carolina

Understanding your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is crucial for safe driving, especially in South Carolina where the legal limit is strictly enforced. Police in South Carolina use breathalyzers and blood tests to determine a driver’s BAC level. These methods are considered accurate and are used to establish impairment in DUI cases. If your BAC is found to be 0.08% or higher, you are considered over the legal limit and subject to DUI charges.

For those looking to self-assess their BAC to ensure safe and legal driving, here are two recommended methods:

  1. Use a High-Quality Alcohol Breathalyzer:
    • I recommend the BACtrack S80, a device known for its professional-grade accuracy and reliability. It is DOT & NHTSA approved and FDA 510(k) cleared, making it a trustworthy option for personal BAC testing. Keeping a device like the BACtrack S80 in your car can be a practical way to ensure you’re not unintentionally over the legal limit. This tool can be especially valuable in South Carolina, where people might not always be aware of their exact BAC level and risk driving impaired.
  2. Utilize a BAC Calculator:
    • Drawing from my decade-long experience as a phlebotomist, I’ve collaborated with fellow phlebologists and web developers to create an online BAC calculator. This tool considers factors such as your weight, the type and amount of alcohol consumed, and the time elapsed since drinking. It’s designed to give you a rough estimate of your BAC level, helping you make informed decisions about your ability to drive safely.

It’s important to remember that while these methods can provide a good estimate of your BAC, they are not 100% accurate. Various factors, including metabolism, food intake, and individual health conditions, can affect BAC readings. Therefore, these tools should be used as guides rather than definitive indicators of your ability to drive legally. If in doubt, the safest option is to not drive and seek alternative transportation. This approach can help prevent drunk driving incidents and ensure that you remain within the legal alcohol limits in South Carolina.

Ways to Avoid Driving with a High BAC in South Carolina

Drink beer and drive in South Carolina

Driving with a high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) not only puts you at risk of facing severe legal consequences in South Carolina but also endangers your life and the lives of others on the road. Fortunately, there are practical and convenient alternatives to ensure you get home safely without driving under the influence. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Utilize Ride-Sharing Apps or Local Taxi Services:
    • In today’s digital age, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft offer a simple and efficient way to find a safe ride home at any time. These services are widely available in South Carolina, including major cities and rural areas. For those who prefer traditional taxi services, local companies provide excellent options. In Charleston, consider using the Charleston Black Cab Company for a reliable and upscale service. In Columbia, Nine Star Cab offers dependable taxi services to meet your transportation needs. Both methods ensure you have a safe journey home without taking the risk of driving after drinking.
  2. Order a Designated Driver Service:
    • If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve driven to a venue and consumed alcohol, leaving your car behind might not feel like an option. However, designated driver services are a fantastic solution to this dilemma. These services provide a driver who can safely drive you and your car home. In Charleston, Private and Personal Transportation is known for their reliable and courteous service. In Columbia, CHATMAN LUXURY CAB CO, LLC offers a similar service, ensuring you and your vehicle get home safely. To find a designated driver service in your area, a quick search for “designated driver service” along with your city name on Google will provide several options.

Choosing not to drive after drinking is a responsible and important decision. By opting for ride-sharing apps, local taxi services, or designated driver services, you’re contributing to safer roads in South Carolina. Remember, planning how to get home safely before heading out can save lives and prevent DUI charges. Let’s make responsible choices and keep our communities safe.

Sticking to DUI Laws in South Carolina: Sad Statistics

In 2020, South Carolina experienced 1,064 fatal road incidents, with 30% involving drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, highlighting the critical importance of avoiding driving under the influence. The state enforces DUI regulations to mitigate accidents caused by impaired driving, emphasizing the need for drivers to adhere to these laws to avoid severe legal consequences. Utilizing alternative transportation methods such as designated driver services, Uber, or taxis is a safer option when alcohol consumption is involved.

Understanding and respecting the dangers of drunk driving is vital for all drivers. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair driving abilities, making it risky to assume one’s BAC level and driving competence. Before deciding to drive, it’s advisable to use an alcohol breathalyzer to check your BAC. For the most current information on DUI laws and safe driving practices, visiting the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles’ official website is recommended.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.