South Carolina's penalties for DWI charges can ruin young lives

For many college students, their time at school is a combination of personal experimentation and growth and academic achievement. Even students on the Dean's List can make questionable decisions on the weekends.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI), however, is more than a simple mistake. It's a crime, and one that could impact your child's life forever. It's important, as a parent, to be proactive once you learn that your college student is facing DWI charges.

Ideally, if your child calls you at the time of the arrest, you can contact an attorney immediately. The less unassisted interaction your college-aged child has with law enforcement, the better the chances of a positive outcome. The sooner an attorney is involved, the more proactive you can be about fighting these charges. Your attorney can review the details of your child's arrest and help you create a defense strategy that will protect your child's future.

Penalties are harsh, even the first time

You may think of a DWI charge as a youthful mistake if no one was hurt in the incident. The courts, however, will take it very seriously. A first time DWI offender could receive a $400 fine and between two and 30 days in jail. In some cases, a judge could recommend 48 hours of community service instead of incarceration. Higher alcohol concentrations in the blood (BAC) can result in steeper penalties. The standard above is for first-time offenders with a BAC of above 0.08 percent and below 0.10 percent.

For those with a BAC of at least 0.10 percent but less than 0.16 percent penalties increase to a $500 fine and at least 72 hours in jail. Those with a BAC of 0.16 percent, which isn't uncommon during college binge-drinking episodes, face even more severe penalties. The fine increases to $1,000 and 30 days becomes the minimum time for incarceration. It is possible to receive 30 days of community service instead, in some cases. Second time offenders face a fine of at least $2,100 and between five days and a year in jail.

In cases of a second offense with a BAC of 0.16 percent or higher, the fine is between $3,500 and $6,500. Jail time will be between a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of three years. Third, fourth, and subsequent offenses have even greater penalties. Combine these with the risk of loss of scholarships, expulsion from school, termination of employment, loss of a driver's license and a criminal record, and your child's life could be substantially different than you hoped.

Your attorney can help protect your college student

Everyone makes mistakes, particularly during youth. A DWI is a serious offense, but with the right attorney, defense is possible. Your child deserves the chance to have a fulfilling future and contribute to society, even if questionable decisions were made at some point. Working with an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney presents the best chance of a positive outcome to this situation for everyone involved.

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