Almost everybody knows that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher makes it illegal to drive – but a lot of people don’t realize that they can get a drunk driving charge even with a lower BAC.
A BAC of .08 is what’s called the “per se” limit, which effectively means that the authorities don’t need any other evidence of impairment to prosecute you. Even if you seem fine, a .08 blood alcohol content makes you legally intoxicated, and South Carolina’s law calls that “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration,” or DUAC.
When your BAC is .05 or higher but below .08
In this state, if your BAC is less than .08 but still .05 or above, both your BAC and other evidence can be used to infer that you’re too impaired by alcohol to drive. Essentially, that means that the prosecutor can try to gain a conviction by using things like:
- The arresting officer’s observations about the traffic violation that first brought you to their attention, prompting the stop
- The officer’s observations about your overall demeanor, including whether you seemed sleepy or disoriented, slurred your words or showed other signs of intoxication
- Dash cam or body cam video of you at the traffic stop, including any attempts you made at passing standardized field sobriety tests
South Carolina also has what is known as a “zero tolerance” law when it comes to driving under the influence (DUI) for those drivers under 21 years of age. If that applies to you, you can be charged with drunk driving if your blood alcohol content is above .02, without regard to any other evidence of intoxication.
So, what’s the bottom line? Yes, you can get a DUI charge in South Carolina even if your blood alcohol concentration is below .08 – but a charge isn’t the same as a conviction. If you’ve been charged with drunk driving, it’s best to explore all your defense options as soon as possible.