Articles on South Carolina Law

What Happens After a DUI Arrest in South Carolina?

by | Jul 31, 2015 | Criminal Defense, DUI

Whether you had just one drink too many at happy hour or you made a bad decision after partying too hard, getting arrested on DUI charges is enough to leave you reeling. Questions about the future leap into your mind.

  • “What’s going to happen next?”
  • “Will I lose my driver’s license?”
  • “Will I have to go to jail?”

Suddenly, everything seems uncertain and out of your control.

Remember, regardless of the circumstances of your DUI arrest, you have rights. You have the right to an attorney. And you have the right to know what happens after your arrest.

The Starting Point: South Carolina DUI Process

After a DUI arrest you need a simple step by step process to follow. Knowing what to expect makes all the difference in a difficult situation.

Below is a simple flow-chart that maps out the next steps depending on your situation. This is a great place to start in answering a question I am commonly asked: “What happens after a DUI arrest in South Carolina?”


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It’s very important to note that it’s the State’s responsibility to prove you guilty of a DUI. While you may believe that it’s nearly impossible to “beat” the charge, law enforcement makes mistakes and other defenses may exist. An attorney experienced in SC DUI laws might be able to uncover opportunities to improve your chances of a good outcome.

Suspended License

The circumstances of your DUI arrest factor into the potential ramifications. For example, your driving privileges in the state of South Carolina will be automatically suspended if…

  1. You blew more than .15 on your breathalyzer test.
  2. You refused the breathalyzer.
  3. You blew into the breathalyzer, but the reading was recorded as a refusal.

In those instances, your driving privileges are suspended regardless of whether the officer actually confiscated your driver’s license. The state issuing your license also has no bearing on the suspension. In other words, even if you have an out of state driver’s license, your right to drive in South Carolina is still suspended.

No matter what, you should avoid driving while your license is suspended. If you get pulled over while driving on a suspended license, you’ll get a ticket for Driving Under Suspension (DUI-related).

That means serious penalties on top of the consequences of your original DUI charge. This type of ticket is not the same as a standard Driving Under Suspension (non DUI-related) ticket, so the consequences are far more severe.

Temporary Alcohol License

After your DUI arrest, you have 30 days–including the day of your arrest, weekends and holidays–to request an Administrative Law Hearing. The Administrative Law Court must receive your request in the mail or by hand delivery within 30 days of the date your license was suspended. You must meet the deadline in order to receive a Temporary Alcohol License. You may not go to a DMV office to make an initial request for a Temporary Alcohol License; this can only be done through the SC Administrative Law Court. Once the Administrative Law Court receives and processes your request, you may then go to the DMV to obtain a Temporary Alcohol License.

The request costs $200 to be paid by money order to the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings or OMVH. Either you or your attorney must sign the money order.

And make sure your current, correct mailing address is on the request form. If not, the notices will be sent to the address on your DUI ticket. It is very important that you receive the correspondence from the Administrative Law Court at your current mailing address as soon as possible.

Within five to 10 days of your request, you should receive two letters. The first letter will be from the Administrative Law Court alerting you of your court date. The second letter should arrive about two days later. This letter will be from the DMV alerting you that you can get your Temporary Alcohol Restricted License (TARL), if you’re eligible.

If you are deemed eligible, you’re permitted to get a one time TARL between the time of your arrest and your Administrative Law Hearing. To obtain your temporary license, you should present your letter at the DMV (or talk to your attorney first about this) and pay a $100 reinstatement fee.

The temporary license will allow you to drive anywhere, subject to bond restrictions that might forbid you from leaving the state. But remember, the TARL is an interim measure. Ultimately, your right to drive depends on the outcome of your administrative hearing.

Administrative law hearing

Your presence at the hearing is not mandatory if your attorney is there. Your attorney will direct you whether you should appear. The purpose of this hearing is to determine certain factors pertaining to your arrest.

  • Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you?
  • Did the officer properly inform you of your implied consent rights?

The outcome of the hearing will go in one of two directions.

You win.

In general, you will prevail if

  • The officer doesn’t show up to the hearing.
  • The judge finds in your favor that:
    1. You were not properly and legally offered implied consent rights.
    2. There was no probable cause for arrest.

In this case, you will get your regular original driver’s license back–the same one you had before your arrest. But don’t get too excited. You’ll still need to deal with the DUI ticket in court.

You lose.

If you do not win at the administrative hearing, things are a bit more complicated. You will have to:

  • Apply for a route restricted license.
  • Pay another $100 fee to the DMV.
  • Enroll in and complete ADSAP classes (short for South Carolina’s Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program).

With your restricted license, you will only be allowed to drive to and from home and workplace as well as a few other very limited locations.

After the administrative hearing

At this point in the process, you need to take care of the criminal portion of your DUI. It is crucial that you appear in court on your directed date.

The only exception is if you are granted a continuance by the court. Make sure to obtain written notice that a continuance has been granted.

Without written documentation of a continuance, you should never, ever miss a court date. If you do, a bench warrant could be issued for any missed court dates.

Need help with your DUI charge?

Now you know what to expect in the aftermath of a DUI arrest in South Carolina. All of this can be a bit overwhelming.

But remember: You have rights. A great way to alleviate some of your doubts is to discuss your situation with an attorney. A lawyer experienced with DUI cases such as yours can analyze the circumstances of your DUI arrest and help you explore your options for moving forward.

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