Many South Carolina residents spend time in North Carolina enjoying the beaches and other attractions, visiting family and friends or attending college. Many laws regarding drinking and driving are the same in both states. For example, if you're 21 or older, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above can get you arrested in both states. That drops to just a .02 BAC if you're under 21.
A DUI conviction or guilty plea can carry fines, jail time and license suspension in both states. The precise penalties vary based on a number of factors, such as whether it's a first or subsequent offense.
It's important to know that under North Carolina law, if you refuse to take a blood-alcohol test, your driver's license can automatically be suspended for 30 days (and possibly longer once a hearing has been held). That's the case whether you're convicted of DUI or not.
South and North Carolina laws regarding open containers of alcohol in a car vary as well. In South Carolina, you can have an open container (which includes any bottle or can where the seal is broken) in the trunk or in a cargo or luggage area of the vehicle, but not in the passenger area.
However, in North Carolina, it's illegal to have an open container anywhere in the vehicle, including the trunk. The exception is a registered limo or taxi (although not a ride-share vehicle like an Uber).
Another important difference between the two Carolinas involves "social host" laws. South Carolina doesn't have any specific social host liability laws that hold people responsible for the actions of guests who became intoxicated at their event. North Carolina does. However, in both states, victims can file civil lawsuits against hosts whom they believe should have stepped in and stopped a guest from doing something potentially harmful like getting behind the wheel.
If you're facing DUI charges, it's essential to understand your rights as well as the potential criminal penalties. An experienced DUI attorney can help you protect your rights and work to mitigate the consequences of your arrest.