South Carolina passed a new ignition interlock law last year with an effective date of May 19, 2024. The law makes major changes to the rules regarding ignition interlock device (IID) installation after a DUI arrest. If you are facing a DUI after the effective date, here’s what you need to know:

Key Changes Under South Carolina’s New Ignition Interlock Law

While South Carolina has a pre-existing ignition interlock law, the new law imposes stricter requirements. It also requires the installation of an ignition interlock device in more situations.

Under the previous law, IIDs were only required in cases involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or above. But, effective May 19, 2024, IID installation will be mandatory (with some exceptions) in all cases involving a BAC over the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

As a result, if you get convicted of DUI (for an arrest on or after May 19, 2024) as a result of having a BAC of 0.08 percent or above, you will generally be required to:

  • Have a certified IID installed in your vehicle at an authorized service center; and,
  • Obtain an “II” restricted driver’s license from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV).

You must take both of these steps at your expense—adding to the already significant costs of a DUI conviction in South Carolina. If you don’t, you won’t be able to restore your driving privileges.

Exceptions to South Carolina’s New Ignition Interlock Law

Under South Carolina’s Ignition Interlock Device Program, there are two exceptions to the requirement to install an IID device after a DUI conviction. These are: (i) the employment exemption; and, (ii) the medical exemption.

The Employment Exemption

If you drive a vehicle owned by your employer for work, you are not required to have an IID device installed in your employer’s vehicle after a first-time DUI conviction. As the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services (DPPPS) explains, “[a]n offender that is required in the course and scope of his or her employment to drive a motor vehicle owned by the offender’s employer may drive his or her employer’s motor vehicle without installation of an IID, provided that the offender’s use of the employer’s motor vehicle is solely for the employer’s business purpose.”

Importantly, however, this does not apply if you own your own business—unless you obtain the court’s approval during your DUI case.

The Medical Exemption

You also are not required to install an IID in your vehicle if you are unable to operate it due to a medical condition. As the DPPPS explains, “SCDMV may waive the [IID] requirement . . . if it is determined that the offender has a medical condition that makes the person incapable of properly operating the device.” However, as DPPPS also makes clear, if a medical exemption is granted, “the offender’s license will remain suspended for the length of time that the person would have been required to hold an II restricted license.”

How Can You Avoid Installing an IID After a DUI Arrest in South Carolina?

Let’s say you don’t qualify for an exemption. How can you avoid installing an IID after a DUI arrest in South Carolina?

The way to avoid installing an IID after a DUI arrest in South Carolina is the same way you avoid all of the other consequences of a DUI conviction—by doing everything you can to avoid a “guilty” verdict at trial. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to avoid a “guilty” verdict in South Carolina (though not all options are available in all cases):

1. Enter Into a Diversion Program (if You Are Eligible)

If you are being charged as a first-time offender, you may be eligible to enter into a diversion program. The South Carolina courts have authorized several diversion programs that provide the opportunity to avoid a conviction without going to trial. If you are eligible to participate, your DUI case will be “diverted” from trial while you work through the steps that your specific program requires. If you complete all of these steps successfully, your DUI case will be dismissed—and you will not face any further consequences due to your DUI arrest.

2. Seek a Plea Deal

You may also be able to avoid the consequences of a DUI conviction by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor’s office. South Carolina allows plea bargaining in DUI cases. If you aren’t eligible for diversion and a conviction at trial seems likely, working with your defense lawyer to seek a plea deal could be your best option. In most cases, plea deals in South Carolina DUI cases involve pleading guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving. While this can still result in fines, driver’s license points, and other consequences, you won’t have to install an IID—and you won’t have to face the life-altering consequences of having a DUI on your permanent record.

3. Fight Your DUI in Court

Regardless of the facts of your case, you can fight your DUI in court. Even if you were drinking before you got behind the wheel, there are defenses that an experienced DUI defense lawyer will be able to assert on your behalf. A conviction is not a foregone conclusion; and, if you do not deserve to face the consequences of a DUI conviction, hiring an experienced lawyer to fight your DUI might be the best option you have available.

Schedule an Appointment with a DUI Defense Lawyer in Mt. Pleasant or Goose Creek

The DUI defense lawyers at DeLuca Maucher Law Offices have extensive experience defending clients against drunk driving charges in Mt. Pleasant and Goose Creek. If you have been arrested for DUI, we can help, and we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your defense. To speak with an experienced lawyer about your case in confidence as soon as possible, call 843-572-1711 or tell us how we can reach you online now.