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  Habitual Offender Frequently Asked Questions
Habitual Offender Frequently Asked Questions

1.       What is the purpose of habitual offender status?
The purpose of the law is to provide maximum safety for all persons using the public highways in South Carolina.  (SC Code of Laws Section
56-1-1010
.)
 

2.       Why would I be classified as a habitual offender?
Any driver who accumulates three or more convictions for major driving offenses within a three year period, or 10 or more four-point moving violation convictions may be classified as a habitual offender.  (SC Code of Laws Section 56-1-1020
.)

3.       What are the major driving offenses?

a.   Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter involving a moter vehicle;

b.   Operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotics or drugs, or unlawful alcohol concentration; 

c.   Driving or operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner;

d.   Driving a motor vehicle while license, permit or privilege to drive a motor vehicle has been suspended, cancelled or revoked;

e.   Any offense punishable as a felony under the motor vehicle laws or any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;

f.    Failure of the driver of a motor vehicle involved in any accident resulting in the death or injury of any person to stop close to the scene of the accident and to report his identity. 

4.       If I am classified as a habitual offender, how long will I be without a driver’s license?
Once the Department of Motor Vehicles classifies you as a habitual offender, your driver's license will be suspended for five years.

5.       How will I know that I have been classified as a habitual offender?
The Department of Motor Vehicles will send you a letter notifying you of the suspension. You will be instructed not to operate a motor vehicle and to surrender your driver’s license or permit to the department.  (SC Code of Laws Section
56-1-1090
.)

6.       Can I contest the suspension?
If you wish to contest the suspension, you may file a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings within 30 days from the date of your suspension notice.  The
Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings
has exclusive jurisdiction to conduct these hearings.

7.       Is there any way the suspension time can be reduced?
After you have served two years of the suspension, you may request a reduction in the suspension time. To request a reduction, you must complete
Form VS-001A
and submit it to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. To be eligible for a reduction, the following conditions must be met:

-     You must not have a previous habitual offender suspension in South Carolina or another state.

-     You must not have driven a motor vehicle during the habitual offender suspension period.

-     You must not have any convictions or pending charges for alcohol or drug violations committed during the habitual offender suspension period.

-     You must not have convictions of pending charges for major driving offenses (listed in question #3) committed during the habitual offender suspension period.

-    You must not have any other mandatory driver’s license suspension that has not yet reached its end date.

8.       How long will it take to find out if my suspension will be reduced?
The department’s decision will be issued within thirty days after receipt of the request.  If the department denies the request, you may file a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.  The Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings will then determine when your driving privileges will be restored. If a reduction of the five year suspension period is granted, it will begin on the date of the department’s decision or on the date of the final decision by the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.  If a reduction is not granted, you will be notified by mail and you may not file for a suspension reduction again.

9.       Can the department reinstate the suspension?
If your driving privilege is restored, but the department subsequently determines that you failed to provide the required or correct information regarding your hearing or committed fraud, the department must suspend your driver’s license for the remaining balance of the habitual offender suspension period.  SCDMV will notify the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and criminal charges may be filed. You may contest the department’s determination by filing a request for a case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings. (SC Code of Laws Section
56-1-1090
.)

10.   If I am convicted of another major driving offense, will I lose my driver’s license?
If your driving privilege is restored following a case hearing and you are convicted of a major driving offense (listed in question #3) that occurs during the original five-year habitual offender suspension period, the department must suspend your driver’s license for the time period by which the habitual offender suspension had been reduced.  You may contest the department’s determination by filing a request for a contested case hearing with the Office Motor Vehicle Hearings. (SC Code of Laws Section
56-1-1090.)

Administrative Hearings are conducted by the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings, which is a part of the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. For information about the hearing process or to schedule a hearing, contact the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.

 

56-1-1010

SECTION 56-1-1010. Legislative declaration of policy.

It is hereby declared to be the policy of this State:

(a) To provide maximum safety for all persons who use the public highways of this State; and

(b) To deny the privilege of operating motor vehicles on such highways to persons who by their conduct and record have demonstrated their indifference to the safety and welfare of others and their disrespect for the laws of this State; and

(c) To discourage repetition of unlawful acts by individuals against the peace and dignity of this State and her political subdivisions and to impose additional penalties upon habitual offenders who have been convicted repeatedly of violations of the traffic laws of this State.

 

56-1-1020

SECTION 56-1-1020. "Habitual offender" and "conviction" defined.

An habitual offender shall mean any person whose record as maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles shows that he has accumulated the convictions for separate and distinct offenses described in subsections (a), (b) and (c) committed during a three-year period; provided, that where more than one included offense shall be committed within a one-day period such multiple offenses shall be treated for the purposes of this article as one offense:

(a) Three or more convictions, singularly or in combination of any of the following separate and distinct offenses arising out of separate acts:

(1) Voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;

(2) Operating or attempting to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotics or drugs;

(3) Driving or operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner;

(4) Driving a motor vehicle while his license, permit, or privilege to drive a motor vehicle has been suspended or revoked, except a conviction for driving under suspension for failure to file proof of financial responsibility;

(5) Any offense punishable as a felony under the motor vehicle laws of this State or any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used;

(6) Failure of the driver of a motor vehicle involved in any accident resulting in the death or injury of any person to stop close to the scene of such accident and report his identity;

(b) Ten or more convictions of separate and distinct offenses involving moving violations singularly or in combination, in the operation of a motor vehicle, which are required to be reported to the department for which four or more points are assigned pursuant to Section 56-1-720 or which are enumerated in subsection (a) of this section.

(c) The offenses included in subsections (a) and (b) shall be deemed to include offenses under any federal law, any law of another state or any municipal or county ordinance of another state substantially conforming to the above provisions.

(d) For purposes of determining the number of convictions for separate and distinct offenses committed during any three-year period, a person shall be deemed to be convicted of an offense on the date the offense was committed if he is subsequently convicted of committing such offense.

56-1-1030

Section 56-1-1030. Revocation of license of habitual offender.

(A)  When a person is convicted of one or more of the offenses listed in Section 56-1-1020(a), (b), or (c), the Department of Motor Vehicles must review its records for that person.  If the department determines after review of its records that the person is an habitual offender as defined in Section 56-1-1020, the department must revoke or suspend the person’s driver’s license.

 

(B)  If the department determines the person is an habitual offender, the department shall give notice of its determination to the person and direct the person not to operate a motor vehicle on the highways of this State and to surrender his driver’s license or permit to the department.  The notice must provide that a person aggrieved by the department determination may file a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings in accordance with its rules of procedure.  The Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings has exclusive jurisdiction to conduct these hearings.”

 

56-1-1090

Section 56-1-1090. Issuance of license to habitual offenders; conditions.

(A)  No license to operate motor vehicles in this State may be issued to an habitual offender nor shall a nonresident habitual offender operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of five years from the date of a determination by the Department of Motor Vehicles that a person is an habitual offender unless the period is reduced to two years as permitted in item (1) or (2).

       (1)   Upon request to the department on a form prescribed by it, the department may restore to the person the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this State  subject to other provisions of law relating to the issuance of drivers’ licenses.  The request permitted by this item may be filed after two years have expired from the beginning date of the habitual offender suspension and if the following conditions are met:

           (a)   the person must not have had a previous habitual offender suspension in this or another state;

           (b)   the person must not have driven a motor vehicle during the habitual offender suspension period;

           (c)   the person must not have been convicted of or have charges pending for any alcohol or drug violations committed during the habitual offender suspension period;

           (d)   the person must not have been convicted of or have charges pending for any offense listed in Section 56-1-1020 committed during the habitual offender suspension period; and

           (e)   the person must not have any other mandatory driver’s license suspension that has not yet reached its end date.

The department will issue its decision within thirty days after receipt of the request.

       (2)   If the department denies the request referenced in item (1), the person may seek relief from the department’s determination by filing a request for a de novo contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act and the rules of procedure for the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.  For good cause shown, the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings may restore to the person the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this State subject to other provisions of law relating to the issuance of driver’s licenses.  The provisions of item (1) shall not be construed to limit the discretion or authority of the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings in considering the person’s request for a reduction of the five-year suspension period; however, those provisions may be used as guidelines for determinations of good cause for relief from the normal five-year suspension period.

 

(B)  If a reduction is granted, it will begin on the date of the department’s decision or on the date of the final decision by the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.  If a reduction is not granted, no request for reduction may be filed again.

 

(C)  If a person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle is restored pursuant to this section, but the department subsequently determines that the person failed to give the required or correct information in his request or during a hearing, or committed any fraud in making the request or during his hearing, the department must suspend the person’s driver’s license pursuant to Section 56-1-240 for the remaining balance of the habitual offender suspension period.  The person may seek relief from the department’s determination by filing a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act and the rules of procedure for the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.

 

(D)  If a person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle is restored pursuant to subsection (A)(1) or (A)(2), and if the person is convicted of a violation of any offense listed in Section 56-1-1020(A) that occurred during the original five-year habitual offender suspension period, the department must suspend the person’s driver’s license for the time period by which the habitual offender suspension had been reduced.  The person may seek relief from the department’s determination by filing a request for a contested case hearing with the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act and the rules of procedure for the Office of Motor Vehicle Hearings.”

56-1-1100

Section 56-1-1100. Penalties.

A person found to be an habitual offender under the provisions of this article, who subsequently is convicted of operating a motor vehicle in this State while the decision of the Department of Motor Vehicles prohibiting the operation is in effect, is guilty of a felony and must be imprisoned not more than five years.

For the purpose of enforcing this section, in any case in which the accused is charged with driving a motor vehicle while his driver's license or permit is suspended or revoked or is charged with driving without a license, the department, before hearing the charges, shall determine whether the person has been adjudged an habitual offender and is barred from operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this State. If the person is found to be an habitual offender, the department shall notify the solicitor or Attorney General and he shall cause the appropriate criminal charges to be lodged against the offender.

56-1-1110

Section 56-1-1110. Article shall not affect existing laws.

Nothing in this article shall be construed as affecting any existing law of this State or any existing ordinance of any political subdivision of the State relating to the operation of motor vehicles, the licensing of persons to operate motor vehicles or providing penalties for the violation thereof.

56-1-1130

Section 56-1-1130. Notification of potential offenders.

The Department of Motor Vehicles shall send a written notice to any person who it determines is in danger of becoming an habitual offender.  

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