Can a driver in South Carolina be charged with DUI if they have drugs in their system?
An often asked question in DUI cases is whether a person can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in South Carolina if they have drugs in their system. This question often comes when an accused has taken a DUI breath test and registered a score below .08, yet still been charged with DUI. The quick answer is YES, a person can be charged and prosecuted for DUI under South Carolina law if they are determined to have drugs in their system. Below, I explain the applicable law and the practicalities of “drugged driving” versus “drunk driving”. However, it is important to know that just because you have been charged with DUI does not mean that you are automatically guilty of DUI. Contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer at Pisarik Law Firm to discuss your DUI defense today. It won’t cost you anything to discuss your case with an experienced DUI lawyer and member of the National College for DUI Defense. 803-415-2733
South Carolina DUI law
South Carolina’s DUI law is found in SC Code Section 56-5-2930. The law states:
(A) It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.
No distinction in South Carolina law for “drugged driving” DUI versus “drunk driving” DUI
As is plainly stated in the statute, a person can be charged with DUI if they ingest drugs, or if they ingest a combination of drugs and alcohol, to the extent that it materially and appreciably impairs their faculties to drive a motor vehicle. The statute does not make a distinction between impairment that is caused by alcohol versus impairment that that is caused by drugs.
A person can be charged with DUI for ingesting lawfully prescribed medications
SC Code Section 56-5-2930 does not distinguish between the ingestion of illegal drugs versus the ingestion of legal drugs. That means that a person can be charged with DUI even if they ingest medications that were lawfully prescribed if those medications impair their faculties to drive to the extent noted in Section 56-5-2930.
South Carolina DUI penalties for alcohol versus drugs
The possible penalties for a conviction of DUI related to alcohol and DUI related to drugs are nearly identical. The only difference is that a DUI related to alcohol has graduated penalties based upon the blood alcohol level that is registered. The first tier of penalties is for a blood alcohol score of .080-.099 or a refusal to take the breath, urine, or blood test. The second tier of penalties is for a blood alcohol score of .100-.159. The third tier is for a blood alcohol score greater than .160. The penalties for the DUI get higher from the first tier to the third tier. (For a further discussion of DUI penalties visit our DUI page.) However, South Carolina law does not make the same tiered distinction for the amount drugs in a person’s system. Therefore, any conviction for DUI related to drugs arguably faces the same penalties as the first tier for an alcohol related DUI.
DUI defense to charges of DUI related to drugs versus DUI related to alcohol
“Drugged driving” DUI cases bring a different set of problems and difficulties compared to drunk driving DUI cases. DUI cases related to drugs may be subject to chain of custody issues, additional constitutional challenges, and further scientific problems. These problems can make it even more important to contact an experienced DUI lawyer to make sure you discuss your DUI defense.
Contact a DUI attorney at Pisarik Law Firm to discuss your DUI defense
A DUI conviction can have serious and long lasting consequences. Before you attempt to go it alone, contact an experienced DUI lawyer at Pisarik Law Firm to discuss your DUI defense. Initial consultations are free of charge. 803-415-2733