South Carolina Alcohol Laws May Surprise You

South Carolina alcohol laws apply to residents of the state. But they also apply to visitors. Visitors should remember that they are not in their home state. South Carolina laws may differ from those they know at home.

         Overview

I.   Minimum Ages
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV. Local Option
V.  Get Legal Advice

I. Minimum Ages

Young people often want part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many. Some deal with alcohol. How old must they be to sell alcohol for consumption elsewhere? Is it the same for a server in a venue selling alcohol for on-site drinking? What about for tending bar?

South Carolina alcohol laws permit adults to serve alcohol for on-site consumption. An adult is a person age 18 or older. To tend bar the age is 21.

There is no minimum age for selling beer or wine for off-premises consumption. But  it is 21 for selling spirits in such a store.

Standard Drinks

This policy arises from a myth. That is, that spirits are more alcoholic than beer or wine. But standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits all have the same amount of alcohol. Each has 0.6 ounce of pure alcohol. They’re all the same in terms of alcohol content.

Those of any age under 21 may drink alcohol in a home of the spouse, parent or guardian.

People under 21 may not buy alcohol. The use of false ID to buy it is a criminal act. It may lead to driver’s license revocation. Anyone who sells alcohol to an underage person who uses a convincing ID and looks old enough is still guilty. And can face conviction. Such facts are no defense.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02%. This applies to drivers age 0 or above! In reality, it only applies to those age 0 to 21. Those 21 or over have a higher BAC limit.

II. More South Carolina Alcohol Laws

Selling Alcohol

South Carolina alcohol laws allow restaurants and hotel lounges to sell alcohol when local option permits. They may do so Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. On Sunday they may sell from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Liquor stores may operate Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. However, they must close on Sunday.

Private clubs may sell alcohol Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Beer sales for consumption off-premises are legal 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday. In addition, retailers may sell it on Sunday if voters in a county approve.

Retailers may only lower regular drink prices between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. It’s illegal to have “two-or-more-for-the-price-of-one” drink offers. And giving away free beer, wine, or mixed drinks is illegal.

Buying Alcohol

south carolina alcohol lawsSouth Carolina alcohol laws prohibit anyone under age 21 from buying, or attempting to buy, alcohol. However, they may do so to help police entrap clerks.

Using a false ID in an effort to buy alcohol is a criminal offense. However, there is no automatic driver’s license suspension.

The penalty for having an unregistered, unlabeled keg is jail for up to 30 days. And the fine is up to $500.

Driving

south carolina alcohol lawsSouth Carolina alcohol laws prohibit driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above. For those under 21, including adults, it’s 0.02% or higher. It’s not 0.00% for several reasons

First, breathalyzers are not highly reliable. Second, everyone produces alcohol naturally within their bodies 24/7. Even those under 21. Third, many foods medications, foods, and juices contain alcohol. For example, orange and other juices produce alcohol if left too long in a refrigerator.

However, courts can convict people of driving under the influence (DUI) even when under the BAC limits . That depends on the circumstances and the judge.

Discover the fascinating story of South of the Border!

Conviction for DUI carries both administrative and criminal penalties. The former come from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The latter come from the court.

All DUI convictions require completing a Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services course. In addition, all second or later convictions require an ignition interlock device (IID) on the vehicle. This prevents starting the engine if alcohol is on the driver’s breath. The convicted driver pays for its installation and monthly fee.

Penalties: Age 21 or Older

These are the penalties for a first DUI with following a BAC lower than 0.16%. Jail for 48 hours to 30 days and/or 48 hours of community service. The court suspends the driving license for six months. It also imposes a fine of $400.

For a second DUI with a BAC under 0.16%, the penalties increase. The sentence is five days to one year in jail. Offenders pay a fine between $2,100 and $5,100. Finally, the license suspension is for an indefinite period.

A third conviction with a BAC under 0.16% leads to 60 days to three years in prison. The fine ranges from $3,800 to $6,300. And the driving suspension is is indefinite in length.

Penalties: Under Age 21

Drivers under age 21 convicted of DUI face the same criminal penalties. But for a first offense, the court suspends their driver’s license for three months. For a second offense within five years, the court penalizes by suspending the license for six months.

Constitutional Right

The U.S. Constitution grants all drivers the right to decline taking a BAC test. However, South Carolina punishes those who use their right. The state suspends their driver’s license for six months. They must complete the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services course. Their license reinstatement fee is at least $100. Finally, they must carry special vehicle insurance for at least three years after the suspension.

Field Sobriety Tests

Important. This punishment does not apply to declining the field sobriety tests. These are both highly subjective and unreliable. Over 30% of people with a BAC of 0.00% fail. That is, about one of three completely sober people will fail!

Lawyers recommend strongly against taking them. Doing so cannot help. It can only hurt. Police have many clever ways to convince drivers to take them. They may even falsely say the law requires it. It does not. In fact, police can legally lie to you. So don’t be a sucker.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers to never, ever take a field sobriety test. They say to refuse firmly and politely. And to do so as often as necessary.

Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Boating: South Carolina Alcohol Laws

south carolina alcohol lawsSouth Carolina alcohol laws make it illegal to operate a boat, jet ski, or sailboat under the influence. That includes alcohol and drugs. The crime is boating under the influence (BUI). It’s “impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.”

The state considers a BAC of 0.08% proof of impairment. However, people can present evidence that they were not impaired. For example, many people have developed very high tolerance to alcohol. They can have BACs much higher than 0.08% and have no impairment.

On the other hand, some people have very low tolerance. Therefore, the court can convict them for being impaired “materially and appreciably.”

BUI Penalties

The penalties for BUI depend on the circumstances and the judge. However, these are typical penalties.

For a first offense, it’s a $200 fine and six-month operator’s license suspension. Also 24 hours in jail or community service.

A second offense brings fines of $3,500 to $6,000 and a one-year license suspension. The offender must spend at least 48 hours in jail or ten days doing community service.

A third conviction carries larger fines and 60 days to three years jail. The state suspends the operator’s license for three years.

BUIs that cause property damage, injury, or death can carry fines as high as $25,000. They can also carry sentences as long as 25 years in prison.

III. Resources on South Carolina Alcohol Laws

IV. Local Option

Sunday alcohol laws for Sunday sales depend on location. South Carolina gives counties and towns local option. That is, they can determine whether or not to permit the sale of alcohol. And, if so, some of the specific regulations.

Food establishments with local option permits can sell beer, wine, and spirits Sunday mornings. Grocery and convenience stores with permits can sell beer and wine seven days a week and 24 hours a day.

Discover more about local option.

Restaurants by County

There are 46 counties in South Carolina. Restaurants with permits can sell beer, wine, and spirits on Sundays in the following 19 counties.

Beaufort
• Berkeley
• Charleston
• Colleton
• Dorchester
• Georgetown
• Greenwood
• Horry
• Jasper
• Kershaw
• Lancaster
• Lexington
• Marion
• Newberry
• Oconee
• Richland (unincorporated areas only)
• Saluda
• Spartanburg (excluding Wellford)
• York

Restaurants by Municipality

Restaurants with permits can sell beer, wine, and spirits on Sundays in these municipalities.

  • Aiken
  • Anderson
  • Chapin
  • Chester
  • Clemson
  • Columbia (Richland County)
  • Edisto Beach
  • Elgin
  • Florence
  • Fountain Inn
  • Greenville
  • Greer
  • Hardeeville
  • Irmo
  • Lake City
  • Lexington
  • Mauldin
  • North Augusta
  • Pendelton
  • Santee
  • Seneca
  • Simpsonville
  • Sumter
  • Travelers Rest
  • Walterboro
  • Yemassee

Grocery & Convenience Stores by County

Grocery and convenience stores can sell beer and wine on Sundays in these counties.

South Carolina alcohol lawsBeaufort
• Berkeley
• Charleston
• Colleton
• Dorchester
• Georgetown
• Horry
• Jasper
• Kershaw
• Marion
• Newberry
• Oconee
• Richland (unincorporated areas only)
• Saluda
• York

Grocery & Convenience Stores by Municipality

Grocery and convenience stores can sell beer and wine on Sundays in these municipalities.

  • South Carolina alcohol lawsAiken
  • Chapin
  • Chester
  • Columbia (Richland County)
  • Edisto Beach
  • Elgin
  • Fountain Inn
  • Greenville
  • Irmo
  • Lake City
  • Lexington
  • Mauldin
  • North Augusta
  • Pendelton
  • Seneca
  • Simpsonville
  • Travelers Rest
  • Walterboro
  • Yemassee

V. Get Legal Advice

As with any state, South Carolina alcohol laws can change. They can be unclear. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Lawyers spend years studying the subject. It’s not do it yourself. Never rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

south carolina alcohol lawsGet information and advice about South Carolina alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer who holds a license in the state.

Alcohol attitudes and practices vary by locale. Therefore, it’s wise to select a lawyer very familiar with the locale in question.

Of course, the best advice is both free and simple. Drink in moderation and don’t drink and drive.