If you drive a moped, you should know about an important change in South Carolina law. In May 2017, Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill that closes a loophole that once allowed moped drivers to avoid prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI). The law will take effect in November 2018, the Associated Press reports.
In the near future, if you get charged with a DUI while driving a moped in South Carolina, you will need to get help from an experienced DUI attorney. An attorney will help you to understand the law and how the criminal process works in our state. The attorney can also help you to build a strong defense that is focused on protecting your future.
State Senator Pushed to Pass DUI Law for Moped Drivers
For many years, legislators in South Carolina pushed to tighten the state’s regulation of moped drivers. State Senators Greg Hembree (R-Horry) and Thomas McElveen (D-Sumter) originally sponsored a bill in 2015 that sought those changes in the law. Hembree, a former prosecutor from North Myrtle Beach, had actually advocated for the changes since his election in 2012, The Insurance Journal reports.
Many lawmakers have viewed the potential dangers of moped driving as being too great to ignore. For instance, The Greenville News reports that 41 people died in 785 moped-related crashes in 2016 alone, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
However, the lawmakers faced resistance. In 2016, former Governor Nikki Haley vetoed legislation that would have made sweeping changes to the state’s moped regulations, The State reports. In addition to allowing police to bring drunk driving charges against moped drivers, the legislation also would have required drivers to wear reflective vests at night and helmets (if younger than age 21), among many other changes.
While the new law signed by Gov. McMaster in May will not require reflective vests, it still makes many significant changes, including the establishment of a helmet requirement for riders under age 21. Most importantly, the law will allow police to charge moped riders with DUI.
As The State notes, if a person in South Carolina loses his or her driver’s license because of a DUI, the driver could still obtain a moped permit. However, the driver could lose that permit if he or she picked up additional alcohol-related offenses.
What You Should Know About a Moped DUI Charge in South Carolina
Something that you may not realize is that South Carolina has two different criminal charges that drunk drivers may face for operating a vehicle while intoxicated: DUIs and DUACs.
DUAC stands for “driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration.” Any person who drives with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher can face a DUAC charge, even if originally charged with DUI at the time of the stop. DUAC is a criminal offense that can result in the identical fines, imprisonment, and collateral consequences as a DUI. While the two crimes are reported differently on criminal histories and driving records, being offered a plea to a DUAC rather than a DUI may not be much of a bargain at all.
DUI and DUAC charges share similar penalties. Those penalties increase if a person commits subsequent offenses. The penalties also increase based upon the amount of alcohol that is found on a breath or blood test. In many ways, the level of alcohol is far more important than whether the charge is treated as a DUI or DUAC. However, under state law, you cannot be prosecuted for the same event under different labels. In other words, for one incident, you will be charged with a DUI or a DUAC – but not both.
How Can a Lawyer Help You If You Are Charged with a Moped DUI?
If you are arrested and charged with DUI in South Carolina, you may be unsure about what to do next in order to protect yourself. However, you don’t have to face the charge alone. You should contact an experienced South Carolina DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.
Knowing that someone will be on your side to protect your rights and fight for you should help you to rest easy. An attorney will understand DUI laws in South Carolina and will know how the criminal justice system works. The lawyer can explain all of the options available to you and work tirelessly to pursue the best possible outcome in your case.
If you or a loved one faces a DUI or DUAC charge in Rock Hill or a nearby community, you deserve compassionate and zealous legal representation. At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, our DUI lawyers are committed to serving the people of South Carolina and to providing the highest quality representation possible. Call us today or submit our contact form to learn more in a confidential consultation about your case.
Gary C. Lemel is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University School of Law who has deep background as a criminal defense attorney in Rock Hill. Over the course of his career, he has handled everything from traffic violations to death penalty litigation. His current practice spans multiple counties and focuses on cases involving driving under the influence, drug charges and high-level felonies. He also serves on the board of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and as a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Judicial Qualifications Committee and Public Defender Standards Committee.