South Carolina DUI Laws & Penalties

SC Drunk Driving Laws Explained in Easy to Understand Simple Terms

South Carolina DUI (Driving Under the Influence) laws are designed to prevent and penalize driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances.

These laws are subject to change, and the circumstances of each case can affect their application. For the most current information and legal advice, it is recommended that you consult a legal professional or the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Key Points of South Carolina DUI Laws:

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits: Like most states, South Carolina enforces a BAC limit of 0.08% for drivers aged 21 and over. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%, and for drivers under 21, any BAC higher than 0.02% is punishable.
  • Implied Consent Law: By driving in South Carolina, drivers are considered to have given implied consent to submit to chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine) to determine their BAC if they are suspected of DUI. Refusal to submit to a BAC test can result in immediate license suspension and other penalties.
  • Penalties: DUI penalties in South Carolina can include fines, jail time, community service, participation in an alcohol and drug safety action program, and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the offender’s vehicle. Penalties increase significantly with subsequent DUI offenses.

Table of Contents

There is a lot of information to cover when it comes to a DUI offense in Alabama, so we have provided you with a quick reference table of contents so you can jump to the section you need more information on, or you can read through the entire page.

Penalties for a First Offense DUI in South Carolina

For a first-offense DUI in South Carolina, the penalties can vary based on several factors, including the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the potential penalties:

1. Fines and Fees
  • A base fine ranges from $400 to $1,000, not including court costs and fees, which can significantly increase the total amount due.
2. Imprisonment
  • The potential jail time depends on the BAC level:
    • For a BAC of 0.08% to less than 0.10%, jail time ranges from 48 hours to 30 days.
    • For a BAC of 0.10% to less than 0.16%, jail time ranges from 72 hours to 30 days.
    • For a BAC of 0.16% or more, jail time ranges from 30 days to 90 days.
3. Community Service
  • The court may allow the offender to complete community service as an alternative to jail time. The minimum mandatory periods are:
    • For a BAC of 0.08% to less than 0.10%, 48 hours of community service.
    • For a BAC of 0.10% to less than 0.16%, 72 hours of community service.
    • For a BAC of 0.16% or more, 30 days of community service.
4. Driver’s License Suspension
5. Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)
  • Offenders are required to enroll in and complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, which may involve education, treatment, or counseling for substance abuse. The cost of ADSAP can vary, typically several hundred dollars.
6. SR-22 Insurance
  • After a DUI conviction, the offender must obtain SR-22 insurance (a certificate of financial responsibility) to have their driving privileges reinstated. SR-22 insurance must be maintained for a minimum of 3 years and can significantly increase insurance premiums.
7. Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
  • Although not mandatory for a first offense unless the BAC is 0.15% or higher, a judge may order the installation of an IID. When required, it must be installed in every vehicle the offender operates, and the offender must bear all associated costs.

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Penalties for a Second Offense DUI in South Carolina

For a second offense DUI in South Carolina, the penalties become significantly harsher compared to a first offense, reflecting the state’s intention to deter repeat DUI incidents. These penalties are structured based on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the offense, emphasizing the severity of driving under the influence at higher BAC levels.

1. Fines and Fees
  • The fines for a second DUI offense in South Carolina increase with the BAC level:
    • For a BAC of 0.08% to less than 0.10%, fines range from $2,100 to $5,100, not including court costs and fees.
    • For a BAC of 0.10% to less than 0.16%, fines range from $2,500 to $5,500.
    • For a BAC of 0.16% or more, fines range from $3,500 to $6,500.
2. Imprisonment
  • Jail time also varies with the BAC level and can be considerable:
    • For a BAC of 0.08% to less than 0.10%, imprisonment ranges from 5 days to 1 year.
    • For a BAC of 0.10% to less than 0.16%, imprisonment ranges from 30 days to 2 years.
    • For a BAC of 0.16% or more, imprisonment ranges from 90 days to 3 years.
3. Driver’s License Suspension
  • The driver’s license is suspended for 1 year for a second offense DUI, regardless of the BAC level.
4. Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)
  • As with a first offense, offenders must enroll in and successfully complete an Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program, which can involve a combination of education, treatment, or counseling for substance abuse.
5. Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
  • An Ignition Interlock Device is mandatory for all second offense DUI convictions in South Carolina. The device must be installed in every vehicle the offender operates, and the offender is responsible for all associated costs. The requirement to use an IID lasts for two years after the reinstatement of driving privileges.
6. Vehicle Immobilization
  • South Carolina law requires vehicle immobilization or impoundment for a period during the license suspension unless the court determines this requirement to be unnecessary for the welfare of the offender’s family or for other compelling reasons.
7. SR-22 Insurance
  • Offenders are required to provide proof of SR-22 insurance (a certificate of financial responsibility) to have their driving privileges reinstated. This high-risk insurance must be maintained for a minimum of 3 years and typically results in higher insurance premiums.

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Penalties for a Third Offense DUI in South Carolina

For a third offense DUI in South Carolina, the penalties are substantially more severe, reflecting the state’s strong stance against repeat DUI offenders. The penalties are significantly harsher than those for first and second offenses, underlining the seriousness with which South Carolina views multiple DUI convictions. These penalties vary based on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest, as follows:

1. Fines
  • BAC less than 0.10%: Fines range from $3,800 to $6,300, not including additional court costs.
  • BAC between 0.10% and 0.16%: Fines range from $5,000 to $7,500, plus court costs.
  • BAC 0.16% or more: Fines range from $7,500 to $10,000, plus court costs.
2. Jail Time
  • BAC less than 0.10%: Imprisonment for a period of 60 days to 3 years.
  • BAC between 0.10% and 0.16%: Imprisonment for a period of 90 days to 4 years.
  • BAC 0.16% or more: Imprisonment for a period of 6 months to 5 years.
3. License Suspension
  • The driver’s license is suspended for 2 years for a third DUI offense, regardless of the BAC level.
4. Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device is mandatory for all third-time DUI offenders following the period of license suspension. This device must be used for a period that is typically longer than for first or second offenses, aiming to ensure the driver maintains sobriety while operating a vehicle.
5. Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)
  • Offenders are required to enroll in and successfully complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. This program involves education, treatment, or counseling for substance abuse, and the offender is responsible for the cost of the program.
6. SR-22 Insurance
  • South Carolina law allows for the possibility of vehicle forfeiture for a third DUI offense, depending on the case’s specifics.
7. Permanent Record
  • A third DUI offense significantly impacts the offender’s criminal record, with long-term consequences for employment opportunities, professional licensing, and personal reputation.

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Penalties for an Underage DUI in South Carolina

Underage DUI laws in South Carolina are strict, reflecting a zero-tolerance stance on underage drinking and driving. These laws apply to drivers under the age of 21. Here are the penalties for an underage DUI, where the legal limit for drivers under 21 is a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or more, much lower than the standard 0.08% for drivers over 21.

1. License Suspension
  • First Offense: 3 to 6 months suspension of the driver’s license.
  • Second or Subsequent Offense: License suspension for 6 months if the previous suspension was less than 6 months. If the prior suspension was for 6 months, the license is suspended for 1 year.
2. Fines and Jail Time
  • Underage DUI does not typically involve jail time for a first offense unless there are aggravating factors (such as causing an accident, high BAC levels, or endangering others). The focus is more on license suspension and mandatory educational programs. However, fines and community service may be imposed, and specifics can vary based on court decisions.
3. Alcohol Education, Intervention, or Treatment
  • Mandatory completion of the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP) is required for underage DUI offenders. The program includes education and intervention measures designed to prevent future offenses. The cost of ADSAP can be substantial and is the responsibility of the offender.
4. Ignition Interlock Device
  • While not typically mandated for a first underage DUI offense, an ignition interlock device (IID) may be required for repeat offenders or in cases with particularly high BAC levels. This device prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath.
5. Implied Consent Law
  • South Carolina’s implied consent law applies to all drivers, including those under 21. Refusal to submit to a BAC test results in automatic suspension of the driver’s license for at least 6 months, in addition to the penalties for DUI.
6. SR-22 Insurance
  • Following a suspension for DUI, underage drivers will need to file an SR-22 form (proof of financial responsibility) before their license can be reinstated. This requirement often leads to higher insurance premiums.
  • Given the significant impact of an underage DUI conviction in South Carolina, it’s advisable for those facing charges to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can navigate the legal system, potentially minimize the consequences, and help manage the long-term impacts of the offense.

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South Carolina CDL DUI Penalties

In South Carolina, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are subject to stringent regulations regarding DUI (Driving Under the Influence) offenses, reflecting the higher standards of safety expected from professional drivers. The state adheres to federal guidelines, which set strict limits and penalties for CDL holders convicted of DUI offenses, whether they are driving a commercial vehicle at the time or not. Here are the key penalties and implications for CDL holders facing DUI charges in South Carolina:

1. BAC Limit for CDL Holders
  • First Offense: A first DUI offense results in at least a one-year disqualification of the CDL. If transporting hazardous materials at the time of the offense, the disqualification period extends to three years.
  • Second Offense: A second DUI offense leads to a lifetime disqualification of the CDL, which may be reduced to 10 years under certain conditions.
2. Penalties for DUI in a Personal Vehicle
  • DUI offenses in a personal vehicle can also lead to CDL disqualification under the same terms as offenses committed in commercial vehicles. This is because CDL regulations are designed to ensure that commercial drivers, who often operate large or hazardous vehicles, demonstrate responsibility and safety at all times, regardless of the type of vehicle they are driving at the moment of the offense.
3. Other Considerations
  • Refusal to Undergo BAC Testing: Under South Carolina’s implied consent law, refusing to submit to a BAC test results in an automatic disqualification of the CDL for one year for a first offense and lifetime disqualification for a second offense.
  • Traffic Violations: Other serious traffic violations, not just DUI, can also affect a CDL. Accumulating certain types of offenses within a specific timeframe can lead to disqualification.
  • Reinstatement: The process for CDL reinstatement after a disqualification period involves meeting all state requirements, which may include completion of DUI education programs, payment of fines, and re-taking the CDL exams. The specifics can vary based on the offense and the number of prior offenses.
4. Impact Beyond Licensing
    • Employment: A DUI conviction can have significant implications for employment opportunities in commercial driving, as many employers have strict policies against hiring drivers with DUI records.
    • Insurance: CDL holders can expect increased insurance premiums or may even be dropped by their insurance providers after a DUI conviction.

Given the severe impact a DUI can have on a commercial driver’s career and livelihood, CDL holders facing DUI charges in South Carolina are strongly advised to seek legal representation. An experienced attorney can provide advice on navigating the legal system, potentially mitigating the consequences of the charge.

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Aggravated DUI Circumstances South Carolina

In South Carolina, an Aggravated DUI, often referred to under various terminologies across states, typically involves circumstances that elevate the severity of a standard DUI offense. These factors lead to harsher penalties than those for a DUI without such aggravating factors. While South Carolina law does not formally classify a distinct charge as “Aggravated DUI,” certain conditions during a DUI incident can significantly impact the sentencing, making the consequences more severe. Here are some circumstances that might be considered aggravating factors in the context of a DUI case in South Carolina:

1. High Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
  • A BAC significantly above the legal limit (for example, 0.15% or higher) can lead to more severe penalties, including longer jail time, higher fines, and a longer period of license suspension.
2. Causing Injury or Death
  • If a DUI results in an accident that causes great bodily injury or death, the offender faces felony DUI charges, which come with substantial penalties including years in prison, large fines, and long-term license suspensions.
3. Prior DUI Convictions
  • Repeat DUI offenses within a certain time frame (typically 10 years) result in increasingly severe penalties. A third or subsequent DUI offense, for instance, can lead to years of imprisonment, thousands of dollars in fines, and extended or permanent loss of driving privileges.
4. Driving with a Suspended License
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence while your license is suspended for a previous DUI or another reason compounds the legal penalties and can lead to additional charges.
5. Speeding While Under the Influence
  • Committing a DUI at excessive speeds can be considered an aggravating factor, leading to enhanced penalties beyond those for a standard DUI.
6. Having Minors in the Vehicle
  • Driving under the influence with a minor (typically someone under the age of 16) in the vehicle can result in additional charges and penalties, recognizing the increased risk posed to young passengers.
7. Refusal to Submit to a BAC Test
  • South Carolina’s implied consent law means that refusing to submit to chemical testing when suspected of DUI can lead to immediate license suspension and other penalties, particularly if aggravating factors are also present.

The presence of one or more of these aggravating factors during a DUI incident can lead to significant legal consequences, reflecting the increased danger to public safety they represent. Due to the complexity of DUI cases and the severity of the potential penalties, especially under aggravating circumstances, it’s crucial for individuals facing such charges to seek competent legal representation. An experienced attorney can navigate the legal system, advocate on the defendant’s behalf, and potentially mitigate the penalties involved.

Additional Consequences

  • Insurance Rates: Conviction for an underage DUI will likely result in significantly higher auto insurance premiums once the individual is eligible to drive again.
  • Permanent Record: A second DUI offense is recorded on the offender’s criminal record, which can have significant long-term impacts on employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

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DUI Education Classes

In South Carolina, individuals convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are often required to complete a DUI education program, commonly referred to as the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). The goal of ADSAP is to reduce the incidence of DUI and the related harmful consequences by providing education and intervention services to offenders. Here’s what you need to know about the ADSAP in South Carolina:

Overview of ADSAP
  • Purpose: ADSAP aims to improve public safety by helping DUI offenders change their behavior and reduce their risk of reoffending. It focuses on addressing the problems related to alcohol and drug use that led to the DUI offense.
  • Components: The program may include assessment, education, intervention, and treatment components tailored to each participant’s needs.
  • Duration: The length of the program varies depending on the individual’s specific situation and needs. It could range from a few weeks to several months.
  • Cost: Participants are responsible for the cost of the program, which can vary but typically ranges from $500 to $2,500. The fee is based on the services required and the participant’s ability to pay.
Requirements and Consequences
  • Mandatory Participation: Completion of ADSAP is required for the reinstatement of driving privileges for anyone convicted of DUI in South Carolina. This includes first-time and repeat offenders.
  • License Reinstatement: To have their driver’s license reinstated, offenders must successfully complete the ADSAP. Failure to enroll in or complete the program can result in the continued suspension of driving privileges.
  • Out-of-State Offenses: South Carolina residents convicted of a DUI in another state must also complete ADSAP or a similar program in the state where the offense occurred to meet South Carolina’s reinstatement requirements.
Additional Considerations
  • Early Enrollment: Individuals charged with DUI in South Carolina can enroll in ADSAP even before their case is resolved in court. Early enrollment is particularly beneficial for those whose licenses have been suspended administratively for refusing or failing a breathalyzer test.
  • Provisional License: Some participants may be eligible for a provisional license or a route-restricted license while they are enrolled in ADSAP, allowing them to drive under certain conditions until they can regain full driving privileges.

ADSAP is a critical component of South Carolina’s effort to reduce DUI offenses and enhance road safety. The program’s focus on education and behavioral change addresses the root causes of DUI and aims to help offenders make better choices in the future. For more detailed information about ADSAP, including how to enroll and specific requirements, individuals should contact the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) or a local ADSAP provider.

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Ignition Interlock Requirements

In South Carolina, the requirements for ignition interlock devices (IIDs) have undergone significant changes due to legislative amendments aimed at reducing DUI offenses and enhancing road safety. The ignition interlock device program, administered by the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (SCDPPPS), mandates the installation of these devices for certain drivers convicted of DUI-related offenses. Key aspects of the program and recent changes include:

  • Emma’s Law and Recent Amendments: Initially bolstered by Emma’s Law in 2014, the program mandates IID installation for first DUI offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .15 or greater. The law has undergone further amendments to tighten the requirements, effectively removing the hard suspension period for DUI second and subsequent offenders, mandating program completion for a non-restrictive license, and setting strict penalties for driving without an IID​ (DPPPS SC)​.
  • 2023 Legislative Session Updates: A significant update came from the 2023 legislative session, which introduced a requirement for all individuals convicted of DUI or DUAC (driving with unlawful alcohol concentration) to install an IID, including those with implied consent suspensions that aren’t overturned at their administrative hearing. This requirement becomes effective from May 19, 2024​ (Coastal Law | Criminal Defense Attorneys)​.
  • Ignition Interlock Device Overview: An IID is a breathalyzer for an individual’s vehicle, preventing the engine from starting if the driver’s BAC exceeds the programmed limit. If a driver fails the test, they may face notifications to the probation department, mandatory substance abuse counseling, extended IID requirement durations, or complete program removal based on the severity and number of offenses​ (Coastal Law | Criminal Defense Attorneys)​.
  • Program Requirements and Duration: The duration for which an IID must be installed varies depending on the number of prior DUI or DUAC convictions within the last ten years. For first offenses post-May 19, 2024, the requirement is six months, increasing with the number of offenses, up to a lifetime requirement for fourth or subsequent offenses​ (Coastal Law | Criminal Defense Attorneys)​.
  • 2024 Amendments to IID Laws: Starting in May 2024, South Carolina’s ignition interlock device laws will see further amendments. These include mandatory IIDs for first-offense DUI or DUAC convictions and for all implied consent violations. There are also provisions for habitual traffic offenders to regain their licenses through IID installation and procedures for potentially removing lifetime device requirements​ (Axelrod & Associates, P.A.)​.

The tightening of IID requirements in South Carolina underscores the state’s commitment to combating drunk driving and improving road safety. Individuals facing DUI or DUAC charges, or those with implied consent violations, should be aware of these stringent requirements and the potential for significant impact on their driving privileges and legal obligations.

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Implied Consent Law

In South Carolina, the Implied Consent Law is a critical piece of legislation related to DUI enforcement. By having a driver’s license and driving on South Carolina roads, drivers have given their “implied consent” to undergo chemical testing (such as breath, blood, or urine tests) to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC) if suspected of DUI. This principle is non-negotiable and tied to the privilege of driving in the state. Refusing these tests results in immediate and significant consequences, including a six-month license suspension for a first refusal, with penalties increasing for subsequent refusals​ (Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm)​.

When a driver refuses to take a BAC test, their license can be revoked for six months on the first refusal, nine months for the second, and one year for the third refusal. Additionally, the prosecution can use the refusal against the driver in a DUI trial, arguing it as evidence of the driver’s knowledge of their impairment. It’s important to note that for a DUI conviction, the law does not necessarily require proof of a BAC over 0.08%; it only requires proof that the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle was materially and appreciably impaired​ (Robert J. Reeves P.C.)​.

South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law details specific procedures for administering chemical tests and outlines the rights of drivers, including the right to refuse testing (with the accompanying consequences), the right to additional independent tests at their expense, and the right to an administrative hearing to challenge a license suspension. The law also protects medical personnel who perform these tests from legal action, provided the tests are conducted properly​ (Robert J. Reeves P.C.)​.

For those facing a license suspension due to refusing a BAC test, it’s possible to request an administrative hearing within 30 days from the issuance of the Notice of Suspension. The hearing’s scope will include verifying the lawfulness of the arrest or detention, ensuring the driver was informed of their implied consent rights, and assessing the refusal or the results of the test if one was taken​ (Jeffcoat Criminal Defense Lawyers)​.

Understanding and navigating the implications of South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law requires careful attention to legal details and potential consequences. Anyone facing DUI charges or issues related to the Implied Consent Law is advised to consult with a qualified attorney to explore their rights and options.

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Driver’s License Hearings

In South Carolina, if you’re charged with a DUI, you face both a criminal process and an administrative process concerning your driving privileges. Here’s an overview of what to expect regarding driver’s license hearings after a DUI arrest:

  • Administrative Hearing and Implied Consent
    • When you’re arrested for DUI in South Carolina, you’ll be subject to the state’s “implied consent” law. This means that by driving on South Carolina roads, you’ve implicitly agreed to take a breathalyzer or blood test when requested by law enforcement. Refusing the test or registering a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15% or higher results in an automatic suspension of your driving privileges. You have the opportunity to challenge this suspension at an administrative hearing. You must request this hearing within 30 days of your arrest to potentially have your suspension lifted or to apply for a Temporary Alcohol License (TAL), which allows you to drive until the hearing. The outcome of this hearing can result in the reinstatement of your license or, if unsuccessful, the continuation of the suspension and additional requirements like enrolling in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP)​ (Templeton Mims & Ward)​​ (RusHilQuRep)​.
  • License Suspension Periods
    • The length of the suspension varies depending on whether it’s your first offense and whether you refused the breathalyzer test or registered a BAC of .15% or higher. For a first offense, the suspension is one month for a BAC of .15% or higher and six months for refusing the breathalyzer. These periods increase with subsequent offenses​ (Templeton Mims & Ward)​.
  • Getting Your License Back
    • After a DUI arrest, to contest your license suspension and argue for its restoration, you can request a hearing with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. It’s advised to have a DUI defense attorney represent you in this matter, as they can guide you through the process and improve your chances of a favorable outcome​ (Jeffcoat Criminal Defense Lawyers)​.
  • Filing for an Administrative Hearing
    • To request an administrative hearing, you need to return the Notice of Suspension along with a $200 filing fee (in the form of a money order or cashier’s check) to the SC Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings within 30 days. If you qualify, you can apply for a TAL, which is effective until the hearing officer makes a decision​ (RusHilQuRep)​.
  • Contested Case Hearings
    • The Department of Motor Vehicles and the arresting officer bear the burden of proof in these hearings. If they fail to appear, the suspension may be rescinded. Suspensions can be contested, and individuals may apply for a restricted license under certain conditions, which allows driving to and from work, school, or ADSAP classes​ (Steve W. Sumner, Attorney At Law)​.
  • Criminal Court Process
    • Following the administrative hearing, if your license remains suspended, you’ll continue with the DUI court process, which includes pleading not guilty or guilty, potentially facing a bench trial or a jury trial, and various pre-trial hearings. Depending on the outcome of the trial, additional consequences may include fines, ADSAP enrollment, community service, and possibly jail time​ (Coastal Law | Criminal Defense Attorneys)​.

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DUI Lawyers in South Carolina

In South Carolina, if you’re facing DUI charges and need legal representation, there are several highly-rated lawyers and law firms that specialize in DUI and DWI cases. Some notable attorneys include:

  • Robert J. Reeves, who has 34 years of experience and offers services in Fort Mill, SC. His practice areas include DUI, criminal, personal injury, and traffic tickets​ (Justia)​.
  • Dayne C. Phillips in Columbia, SC, specializes in DUI, criminal, domestic violence, and traffic tickets, offering over 13 years of experience​ (Justia)​.
  • Charlie Condon, based in Mount Pleasant, SC, brings 45 years of experience to his clients, covering DUI, criminal, domestic violence, and personal injury cases​ (Justia)​.
  • Adam D. Young and Kelley Young of Young & Young Attorneys at Law in Charleston, SC, offer experienced and assertive representation​ (​.
  • Michael Loignon of Loignon Law Firm, serving Charleston, SC, provides diligent representation for DUI-DWI cases​ (​.

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Additional South Carolina DUI Resources