jail time for first DUI offense

Being charged for DUI for the first time can feel like your life is spiraling out of control. After all, it was just one mistake on one bad night. You’re not the type of person to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t, but this one time, you did. And now, you’re worried about court hearings, fines, and jail time. 

South Carolina DUI defense attorneys know that the state takes DUI cases seriously and the common punishments reflect the state’s attitudes about this type of offense. So, will you have to serve time in jail if you’re convicted? Let’s take a look at what you can expect.

You Will Go to Jail If Convicted

South Carolina believes in throwing the book at drivers convicted of DUI, even if it’s their first time. You could be expected to serve jail time if convicted. Typically, first-time offenders will be given the choice of paying a fine or spending time in jail. But that doesn’t mean you’re to languish in jail for years on end. After all, it’s your first offense and the state’s goal is to deter you from getting behind the wheel while under the influence in the future. 

For most first-time convictions, jail sentences range from two days to as long as 90 days.

Sentencing Depends on the Severity of Your Incident

If you were caught driving with a BAC level that’s just over the legal limit, the state likely won’t sentence you to the full 90 days in jail. They’ll typically give you a sentence more appropriate to the severity of your DUI incident. 

For example, say you were caught driving buzzed at a DUI checkpoint and you weren’t involved in any altercations or accidents. You’ll likely spend a couple of days in jail. But if you were involved in a fender bender or a severe accident as a result of driving while impaired, your jail sentence will likely be longer. 

Jail Isn’t the Only Punishment

Jail time isn’t the only punishment you may face as a result of a first-time conviction. You could also pay a fine of up to $1,000. And as of 2024, you’ll be required to install and maintain an interlock ignition device on your vehicle or vehicles.

This device is designed to check your BAC level every time you get behind the wheel. If you try to start your car and have a BAC level of 0.02% or higher, the car won’t start. This is inconvenient since these devices are far from accurate. Some medications, mouthwashes, and even gum can trigger a false positive and leave you stranded.

But what’s worse is that you’re responsible for the cost of the device and all required maintenance for the device. Ignition interlock devices cost several hundred dollars to install and require about $100 per month to maintain and calibrate. If you fail to maintain the device, the court may assess additional punishments and fines. This can make covering your other routine expenses harder and may impose a financial burden on you and your family.

A South Carolina DUI Defense Attorney Can Mount a Defense

DUI cases are always unique and while the state likes to treat all first-time offenders the same, doing so can result in unfair punishments and unfair jail sentences. That’s why working with an experienced South Carolina DUI defense attorney is an absolute must if you’re charged with DUI.

At Truslow & Truslow, our team understands that mistakes happen. Whether you’re a first-time offender who just had one too many beers at dinner or a repeat offender who is worried about their ability to support their family, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let our team represent your case.