Drunk Driving Laws in South Carolina in 2023: What Is Legal Blood Alcohol Level?

Drink and drive laws in South Carolina

In South Carolina, it’s unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or 80 milliliters of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. However, if it has been proven that you are driving while impaired with alcohol, you can still get arrested even if your BAC is lower than 0.08%.

Commercial vehicle drivers are prohibited from driving with a 0.04% or higher BAC. At 0.02% BAC, drivers under the age of 21 are likewise deemed legally intoxicated. Violations of this state regulation will result in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge. 

One to two standard alcoholic beverages are usually sufficient to approach or exceed a BAC level of 0.08%. However, because BAC changes according to factors such as weight and gender, this quantity should only be used as a rough guide.

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.

According to NHTSA data, there were 1,064 fatal road incidents in South Carolina in 2020. Thirty percent of this figure concerns drivers with BACs of 0.08% or above.

Driving when intoxicated should be avoided as much as possible. If you must travel after having consumed alcohol, it is much better to use a designated driver service, Uber, or a cab.

South Carolina has DUI regulations to reduce accidents caused by intoxicated driving. It is necessary to observe impaired driving legislation to prevent legal ramifications. 

If you can’t avoid driving, you should check your blood alcohol level before getting behind the wheel. You can assess your blood alcohol content by using an alcohol breathalyzer.

We recommend checking South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles’ official website for the most up-to-date information about DUI driving restrictions.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in South Carolina

Alcohol can impair judgment by reducing reflexes, hindering vision, distorting distance and speed recognition, and delaying reaction time.

These things may occur even if you don’t appear or feel inebriated. Alcohol intoxication symptoms may appear as soon as you have your first drink.

Once you drink, alcohol enters the bloodstream within 30 minutes to 2 hours. Your respiratory rate may slow down, making clear thinking more difficult.

Although the state’s legal BAC limit is 0.08%, remember that each individual reacts differently to alcohol.

The following factors may have an impact on your blood alcohol concentration:

  • weight,
  • gender,
  • anxiousness and tiredness levels
  • hunger,
  • level of alcohol consumption, and
  • taking prescription medicines.

Some folks may pass out after a few drinks. Even though they appear normal, their ability to drive may be predetermined. As a result, it is critical to verify your BAC before getting behind the wheel.

A BAC calculator and chart can help you figure out how much alcohol you can consume before driving. However, these strategies may not suit everyone because everyone reacts differently to alcohol. It is still better to use a certified alcohol breathalyzer to measure your BAC accurately.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in South Carolina

Blood alcohol levels ranging from 0.010% to 0.029% are unlikely to cause significant impairment. These people do not look to be intoxicated. However, as BAC levels rise, indicators of alcohol-related impairment become visible.

DUI laws differ in every state. Check your blood alcohol level before driving to avoid penalties.

DUI convictions can have severe legal and financial ramifications. The following are the DUI punishments in South Carolina.

The punishments indicated below are the minimum and maximum penalties for a first, second, third, and fourth offense, respectively. The penalties, however, are further differentiated dependent on the driver’s BAC.

First DUI Offense in SC

First-time offenders of DUI in South Carolina may face the following penalties:

  • Jail Time: 48 to 90 days of imprisonment 
  • Fines: $400 to $1,000
  • License Suspension: Up to six months of license suspension

Second DUI Offense in SC

Second-time DUI offenders may face the following punishment:

  • Jail Time: Five (5) days to three (3) years
  • Fines: $2,100 to $6,500
  • License Suspension: Two (2) years of license suspension

Third DUI Offense in SC

Third-time DUI offenders are bound to face the following consequences of DUI:

  • Jail Time: Minimum of sixty(60) days up to five (5) years imprisonment
  • Fines: $3,800 to $10,000
  • License Suspension: Three (3) to four (4) years of license suspension

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offense in SC

  • Jail Time: One to five years in prison
  • License Suspension: Lifetime license revocation; the offender may request for reinstatement after seven (7) years,

Ignition Interlock Device

After completing the license suspension period imposed on the offender, an interlock device must be installed in a motor vehicle for the following period:

  • Second Offense: Two years for a second offense
  • Third Offense: Three years 
  • Fourth or subsequent Offense: Lifetime

When Can You Drink and Drive in South Carolina?

Several factors influence blood alcohol content. According to studies, gender is a common factor affecting a person’s BAC level. Men and women have different BAC thresholds.

Men have much higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) than women. The ADH enzymes control the metabolism of alcohol. As a result, men absorb alcohol more quickly than women.

The information below will guide you on how much alcohol you can drink before driving in South Carolina.

Although research supports the information provided here, you should be aware that because everyone reacts differently to alcohol, it may not be beneficial or suitable for everyone.

How Many Bottles of Beers Can You Drink and Drive in South Carolina?

Drink beer and drive in South Carolina

When you look at BAC charts, you’ll see that a lighter person has a higher BAC.

After consuming a 12-ounce (350 ml) beer, a 160-pound male (72 kilograms) can have a BAC of 0.02%.

A woman of the same weight who consumes the same amount of alcohol may have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.03%.

This difference demonstrates how a person’s gender affects how they process alcohol.

Given the above example, limiting your beer consumption to one to two bottles is advisable if you need to drive later.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Consume and Drive in South Carolina?

The ABV of a normal 5-ounce (142-milliliter) glass of wine is 12%.

As shown in the sample above, a 160-pound male can have a BAC of 0.02% after ingesting one glass of wine. On the other hand, a girl of the same weight and drinking habits could have a BAC as high as 0.03%.

One to two glasses of wine should be enough if you intend to drive after drinking.

How Much Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in South Carolina?

Distilled alcohols, such as vodka and whiskey, have an ABV of 40%.

If you must drive, limit yourself to one to two shots of whiskey or vodka.

Sticking to DUI Laws in South Carolina

Every driver should be aware of the dangers of drunk driving and take all precautions to avoid it.

Driving when high or intoxicated is dangerous. If you are drunk, you risk losing control of yourself and your vehicle.

Even if you’ve only had a few bottles or glasses of alcohol, don’t be too sure of your BAC and driving competence. Alternative modes of transportation should be investigated instead of driving.

If you wish to drive after drinking, ensure your driving capacity is not impaired. Your blood alcohol levels can be reliably assessed with a reliable alcohol breathalyzer.

We recommend visiting the official website of South Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more about the state’s DUI statutes.

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.