South Carolina’s Implied Consent Laws and Refusing a Blood or Breath Alcohol Test

The requirement to submit to BAC testing and the penalties of a refusal in South Carolina.

DUI investigations often involve the officer asking the driver to take a breath or blood alcohol test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver's system. To prove a DUI in court, it can be important for the prosecution to precisely show the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the concentration of drugs in the driver's blood.

This article gives an overview of what South Carolina law says about when a driver is required to submit to DUI chemical testing and the consequences of an unlawful refusal.

What is Implied Consent?

South Carolina's implied consent law specifies that any person who operates a vehicle within the state is considered to have given consent to chemical tests of the persons' breath, blood, or urine. However, the driver must have been lawfully placed under arrest—which requires probable cause—for operating a vehicle while intoxicated before being required to test.

Consequences of Refusal

License suspension. Refusal of a lawfully requested BAC test is a not a crime but will lead to license suspension. At the time of arrest, the officer will issue a notice of suspension indicating the driver's license has been suspended. The DMV will count how many prior offenses the driver has in the last ten years and will suspend the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first offense
  • nine months for a second offense, and
  • 12 months for a third offense.

This suspension will be added to any suspension incurred from a DUI conviction.

Treatment. Drivers who refuse testing will also be required to complete the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). The program involves the driver obtaining an evaluation and completing any recommended treatment.

Restricted license. First-offense drivers who have their license suspended for a refusal are eligible for a temporary restricted license to drive with an ignition interlock device (IID).

Drivers who do not contest the suspension and have enrolled in ADSAP may also apply for a route-restricted license. This license allows the driver to travel only to school or work and only at limited times.

Evidentiary uses. It may be more difficult for a prosecutor to prove a DUI without a valid chemical test. However, the fact that a driver refused to submit to testing can actually be used against him or her at trial. While refusal doesn't exactly prove intoxication, prosecutors often argue a refusal is indicative that the person was trying to hide intoxication.

Legal Process

Any objection to the notice of suspension must be submitted within 30 days of issuance. So if you wish to contest a notice of suspension it's a good idea to get in touch with a DUI lawyer immediately.

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