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What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In South Carolina?

South Carolina traffic violations and infractions are actions that infringe on any of the state’s traffic laws. The state’s traffic violations are categorized and penalized under the South Carolina Code of Laws (title 56). A defendant’s previous convictions and whether the offense caused an injury, property damage, or death typically contribute towards penalizing the offender. A traffic infraction is generally not as severe as a misdemeanor and a felony. Punishments for traffic violations may include fines, license revocation/suspension, incarceration, parole/probation, car impoundment, social work, or points added to the offender’s driving record. If a traffic fine is owed or the case is appealed, a mandatory court appearance might be necessary.

What Are Felony Traffic Violations In South Carolina?

A felony traffic violation in South Carolina is the most severe offense a traffic offender can get convicted of. An injury incurred while speeding or drunk driving can lead to felony charges in South Carolina. The penalty for a traffic felony violation depends on the severity of the crime. One of the most severe felony traffic offenses is recurring DUI (Driving Under Influence) with the penalty comprising years of jail time and a hefty fine.

A habitual traffic offender in South Carolina is of two kinds. First is an individual who has been convicted three times within three years for “major” traffic offenses. The other is an individual who has been charged with “minor” traffic violations ten times in three years. Minor offenses typically hold four or fewer points against the offender’s driving license. They may also include fines and administrative fees. These minor offenses include speeding over ten mph faster or failing to stop at the traffic light. Speeding laws are stringent in South Carolina, as stated in section 56–5–1520 (SC Code). First-time speed limit violators may be fined upwards of $445, 30-day imprisonment, or their driving license suspended for three months (minimum).

Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in South Carolina

  • Reckless driving
  • DUI (Driving under the influence)
  • Refusal to stop for an accident (hit and run)
  • DUAC (Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration)
  • Reckless driving of a vehicle resulting in homicide

What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In South Carolina?

In South Carolina, a traffic violation is considered a misdemeanor if the offense is not severe enough to be classified as a traffic felony. However, a misdemeanor is still more grievous than an infraction. Traffic misdemeanors are typically associated with some danger to human life, security, or property. Take note that some offenses may also be charged as a felony based on the damage or injury. In South Carolina, breaking the speed limit by 25 mph is generally labeled reckless driving.

Penalties include fines and jail time. Fines vary from $100 to several hundred dollars. For traffic misdemeanor violations, the prison sentence is typically limited to a duration of one year inside a county jail. Also, the offender may get their license suspended. At the traffic courts, individuals have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty at the court hearings.

Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in South Carolina

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving with no insurance
  • Driving without a driver’s license, etc.
  • Speeding tickets
  • Throwing materials at other vehicles
  • Running away from a law enforcement official resulting in bodily harm
  • Hit-and-run situations
  • Driving under suspension (DUS)

What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In South Carolina?

South Carolina traffic infractions are violations against the State’s traffic codes. This is the least atrocious traffic violation; hence the penalties normally do not require imprisonment. Traffic infractions are usually ordinance violations.

Examples Of Traffic Infractions In South Carolina?

Below are some South Carolina traffic infractions:

  • Illegitimate parking
  • Lending an individual your vehicle to race on a public road
  • Loitering
  • Passing a red light
  • Passing a school bus
  • Refusal to yield to law enforcement officials after being flagged
  • Making an improper U-turn
  • Careless vehicular operation (driving while using the phone)

How Do Traffic Tickets Work in South Carolina?

A South Carolina traffic ticket is a legal notice from an officer to a road user, disclosing that a traffic offense was committed. The State operates three kinds of traffic systems, which are; Felony, misdemeanor, and infraction. Road Users issued with a traffic ticket should make a plea within 15 days of the notice. If the individual fails to do that, it may result in extra charges or even an arrest.

Once a road user is issued a traffic ticket, individuals may respond by paying the ticket fine, seeking a mitigation hearing, or pleading not guilty, thereby fighting the ticket. The first option may be settleable out of court, but the other two may require the recipient’s appearance in court. The fine is indicated on the notice and is payable by mail, online, or in person.

If an offender pleads guilty and pays the fines, the individual could still incur an increase in insurance rates, and the DOL (Department of Licensing) could suspend the driving license. Interested persons should also note that traffic offenses can be categorized as:

Moving violations: This is an offense committed while the vehicle is in motion, and the driver suffers the repercussions.

Non-moving violations: This is the case when the vehicle is stationary—for example, illegal parking.

The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) is the authorized government agency concerned with vehicle management on the State’s roads. The SCDMV is responsible for assessing points for traffic violations points and typically does so for moving violations, although there are certain exceptions. There are three categories by which the agency assigns points for traffic violations in South Carolina, and these are 2-point violations, 4-point violations, and 6-point violations. Offenders can take defensive driving lessons, and by doing so, may be able to reduce the points added to their driving record.

Are Driving Records Public In South Carolina?

Pursuant to the South Carolina Public Records Act (Title 30), traffic and driving records are accessible to the general public. The only exception, however, is confidential or sensitive documents. A driving record holds details regarding points scored by an individual from traffic offenses, accidents, and convictions. They can be used:

  • To help facilitate the revision of a vehicle’s insurance policy.
  • In legal proceedings and by state agencies.
  • During pre-employment auditions and background checks

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. Operating independently of any state government agency, these websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location. Such sites also have search engines that may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the record owner, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or State that the person resides in or was accused of.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How To Find Driving Records In South Carolina?

To obtain a traffic/driving record in South Carolina, interested parties should visit the Driver Motor Vehicle History Records (DMVDHR). The agency keeps all of South Carolina’s driving records online. The State offers driving records of either three years or ten years. The documents may also be certified or uncertified. To obtain these records costs $6 payable with a credit/debit card, checks, or cash. Interested persons can get traffic/driving records by mail, online, or in person. The official mailing address is:

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV)
PO. Box 1498
Blythewood, South Carolina 29016–0019

Can Traffic Violations and Infractions be Expunged or Sealed In South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the general principle is that traffic offenses cannot be expunged as well as DUI and DUAC violations, although there are certain exceptions. These are:

  • Reckless driving offenses can now be forwarded and expunged under Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI). This can happen only when the ticket is re-written as a reckless driving violation. Then a DUI charge is submitted to PTI at the behest of the prosecutor.
  • If there was no physical harm, failure to halt for the blue traffic light could be expunged after three of serving a sentence.
  • After an offender has completed the TEP (Traffic Education Program), minor traffic violations can be expunged. Legally this is a dismissal and expungement of the traffic record.

Generally, a traffic infraction isn’t recorded as a criminal act; therefore, it won’t be seen in an individual’s records. However, a misdemeanor violation leading to a jail term is regarded as a crime. Minor misdemeanor cases involving juveniles can be sealed. All traffic felonies are considered as criminal acts, and in a situation whereby the concerned party is declared guilty, expungement is generally impossible. Suppose an offender has a record that does not fall under an exception. In that case, the only legal option is to seek pardon from the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole & Pardon Services.

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