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Should you plead to DUAC?

Should you plead to DUAC?

A common plea offer for those facing a South Carolina DUI charge is to plead to a DUAC. Is this a good idea for your case? Should you plead to DUAC?

DUAC stands for Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration. It’s an entirely different law than DUI. The law is contained in S.C. Code § 56-5-2933. This law makes it different to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC), of 0.08 or higher. This is different from a DUI which doesn’t require any specific alcohol level, but instead makes it illegal to drive while impaired.

The DMV penalties for a DUAC or DUI conviction are the same. This includes the same suspension period, SR-22 insurance, and ADSAP requirement (substance abuse program).

A DUAC plea offer typically contains the following terms. First, a new ticket will be written for the DUAC offense. The blood-alcohol level will normally be set at 0.08. Finally, the original DUI charge will be dismissed.

So, what are the specific benefits of this arrangement?

  • If the original DUI was based on the refusal of an implied consent test (meaning breath, blood or urine testing) or a BAC of 0.15 or higher, this plea will remove the requirement of having to install an ignition interlock device. This can save you money as well as the potential embarrassment of having an alcohol breath test machine installed in your car.
  • If the original DUI was with a BAC of 0.11 or higher, then the DUAC 0.08 level plea will save you some money on court fines (anywhere from approximately $200 to $1,200).

The biggest benefit though is only available in certain courts. That benefit is that when the DUI is dismissed it will be expunged. This removes the publicly available record of the arrest off of your criminal record. The DUAC conviction will still be reported the DMV. A DUI conviction will result in a lifetime criminal record in South Carolina. For many, this can have drastic consequences. The guarantee to avoid a DUI criminal record can be a very significant benefit for many.  

Again, the DUI expungement with a DUAC plea is not available in all courts. Without the expungement, there may be no practical benefit to a DUAC plea over a comparable DUI plea.

For example:

  • DUI Expungements are not available in the Lexington County DUI Court
  • DUI Expungements are available in the Town of Lexington, Richland County Central Court, City of Columbia

We’ve seen many situations where prosecutors or police officers have made DUAC offers where there is really no practical benefit to the defendant (other than perhaps, to “get it over with”). We’ve also seen many situations where a DUAC offer that includes a guaranteed expungement of a DUI arrest can have significant value to the defendant.

Before any decision is made to accept any DUAC or other plea offer, it is important that the discovery materials be obtained and reviewed by a qualified DUI defense attorney. Discovery materials include the officer’s roadside camera, any available body-cam footage, the officer’s narrative incident report, breath test video recording, and any other available materials. There can be significant defenses available in a DUI case that can result in results more favorable than a DUAC plea. This includes the possibility of dismissal, reduction to a lower ticket, or obtaining a “not guilty” verdict after a contested trial.

So, what should you decide?

We don’t recommend anyone accept any DUAC or other offer to resolve their DUI case unless they are confident doing so is in their best interest. It’s impossible to reach this conclusion until the discovery materials are available and have been reviewed by a qualified attorney. Ultimately, the decision to accept or not accept a DUAC is only for the defendant to make.

About the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, has been helping those facing DUI charges in Lexington, Columbia and throughout South Carolina since 2004. James Snell is a member of the National College for DUI Defense and has taken supplemental training in DUI investigation based on law enforcement standards. This includes multi-day courses on DUI Detection & Field Sobriety Testing, as well as Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement. Mr. Snell is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of South Carolina School of Law. He is also the published author of South Carolina DUI Defense: The Law & Practice.

Those facing a DUI charge are invited to contact his office for a free in-office consultation. In addition to representing clients facing DUI and other criminal charges, he is also available to help file paperwork to quickly restore a suspended driver’s license lost due to refusing or blowing over 0.15 on the DUI breath test.


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