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Driving Laws


When can I get my driver's license?
You can get your beginner's permit when you turn 15. You must pass an exam to qualify for a beginner's permit. Driving with a beginner's permit requires that a 21 year old with at least one year of driving experience ride in the front passenger seat. You may only drive during daylight hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during daylight savings time).
S.C. Code Section 56-1-50
You can get a provisional license if you are 15 and have had a beginner's permit for 90 days. You must have proof of school attendance and pass a driver's education class and a road test to qualify for a provisional license. A provisional license allows you to drive during daylight hours unaccompanied, but at night, a 21 year old with at least one year of driving experience must ride in the front passenger seat (must be a parent after midnight). You will obtain full driving privileges when you are 16 if you have had your provisional license for one year and have no violations or at-fault accidents on your driving record.
S.C. Code Section 56-1-175
You can get a special restricted license when you are 16 and have had a beginner's permit for 90 days. Unlike a provisional license, you do not have to have proof of school attendance or pass a driver's education class. Like a provisional license, a special restricted license allows you to drive during daylight hours unaccompanied, but at night, a 21 year old with at least one year of driving experience ride in the front passenger seat (must be a parent after midnight). You will obtain full driving privileges when you are 17.
S.C. Code Section 56-1-180
 

What are the penalties for speeding?
Speeding penalties
vary from city to city and are often increased by court costs. However, the minimum fines for speeding are as follows:
A)   Under 10 miles per hour over posted speed limit:
Fine between $15 and $25
B)   Between 10 and 15 miles per hour over posted speed limit:
Fine between $25 and $50
C)   Between 15 and 25 miles per hour over posted speed limit:
Fine between $50 and $75
D)   Excess of 25 miles per hour over posted speed limit:
Fine between $75 and $200 or up to 30 days imprisonment.
S.C. Code Section 56-5-1520  
 

What are driver's license points?
A point system is used as a driving record to keep track of the number and severity of traffic offenses you have committed. If you reach a certain number of points, your driver's license is suspended for a certain period of time. Over time, the number of points associated with prior violations diminishes, increasing the number of total points accumulated allowable over an extended period of time. The length of suspensions for accumulated excessive points is as follows:
(1) 12 to 15 points--three months' suspension;
(2) 16 or 17 points--four months' suspension;
(3) 18 or 19 points--five months' suspension;
(4) 20 points and over--six months' suspension.
S.C. Code Sections 56-1-720, 56-1-740, 56-1-770
In addition to its legal effects on driving eligibility, a driver's insurance company uses the point system to determine the risk of insuring that driver. Thus, the more points a driver has on his or her record, the more that driver must pay for insurance. Automobile insurance can be very expensive, and South Carolina requires all motorists to carry liability insurance. This ensures that, in the event of a wreck, the driver at fault is at least able to pay for the damages he or she inflicts on others.  
 

What happens if I don't pull over when signaled?
It is against the law for a motor vehicle driver, while driving on a South Carolina road, street or highway, to fail to stop when signaled by any law enforcement vehicle by means of a siren or flashing lights. Penalty: Misdemeanor penalty including a fine of more that $500 or imprisonment between 90 days and three years. Also, driver's license is suspended for between 30 days and one year.
S.C. Code Section 56-6-750  
 

What if I drive but don't have my license?
Anyone who drives a motor vehicle on any public highway in South Carolina without a valid driver's license is guilty of a misdemeanor. You can have the ticket dismissed if, within seven days of getting a ticket, you show the court that you actually have a valid license even though you didn't have it with you.
Penalties:
first offense: Fine between $50 and $100 or 30 days imprisonment
second offense: Fine of $500 or 45 days imprisonment or both
third or subsequent offense: Between 45 days and six months.
S.C. Code Section 56-1-440  
 

Is it legal for me to race my friends?
No. It is unlawful to engage in a motor race or contest for speed on any public road, street or highway in South Carolina. It is also illegal to aid and assist in any such race or contest.
Penalty: Fine between $200 and $600 or imprisonment between two and six months. In addition, your driver's license is revoked for one year.
S.C. Code Sections 56-5-1590, 56-5-1620  
 

Can I drive someone else's car without his or her permission?
No. It is illegal to drive a car without the owner's permission. You can get up to three years in jail if you do.
S.C. Code Section 16-21-60  
 

Can my car be searched if I am pulled over?
It depends. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed searches of vehicles without a warrant if a police officer has probable cause to believe there are drugs inside. Where police officers have probable cause to search an entire vehicle, they may conduct a warrantless search of every part of the vehicle and its contents, including all containers and packages that may conceal the object of the search. Also, the search of the passenger compartment of an automobile (trunk excluded) is permissible if the police officer possesses a reasonable belief ("probable cause" is not required) that the suspect is dangerous and the suspect may gain immediate control of weapons.
California v. Acevedo , 500 U.S. 565 (1991); Michigan v. Long , 463 U.S. 1032 (1983)