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Look at impact, cost of DUI for SC drivers

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An Upstate billboard warns drivers of the cost of DUI. (Feb. 24, 2014/FOX Carolina) An Upstate billboard warns drivers of the cost of DUI. (Feb. 24, 2014/FOX Carolina)

"If you get a DUI, you just blew $10,000." That is what an advertising campaign with billboards across the Upstate are claiming, but is that the actual cost of driving under the influence?

Greenville attorney Steve Sumner said the billboard's $10,000 estimate is a bit low for South Carolina, when in reality a DUI conviction make cost more like $15,000.

"It's going to be fines, it's going to be court costs and assessments. You're looking at re-licensing fees," Sumner said.

And in addition to the fines, there is more, including alcohol counseling, car insurance increases, the cost to tow your car, attorney fees and the installation of a car ignition interlock.

"Really it is the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction that people are really concerned about," Sumner said.

Like a permanent criminal record. Sumner said a DUI conviction is not expungeable.

"There is no amount of time that you can wait after a DUI conviction for it to come off your record," he said.

The collateral consequences can change a driver's life. Jon-Erik Hartfield knows all about those consequences when a car he was riding in was hit by a drunk driver in 2003. The drunk driver was killed.

"Spent 10 months and three days in the hospital, in a coma, and I was in the hospital in rehab and still can't do things right. Caused me a lot of problems," Hartfield said.

He has a permanent brain injury that impacts his ability to get around and his short-term memory.

"I'm struggling to even remember your name," Hartfield told FOX Carolina's Diana Watson. "I try to remember every day things with my short term memory and I feel like that's nothing but a struggle. Every day is a struggle when I get out of bed."

But good friends, family and his faith in God kept Hartfield strong and grateful to be alive.

"I feel blessed to be here," he said. "I feel God has a purpose for me."

And part of that purpose is to talk to groups across South Carolina about the dangers of drunken driving.

"If we can keep one more person off the road from drinking and driving, that would be a great thing," Hartfield said. "That would save a life. That would be tremendous."

And there are other important factors to keep in mind regarding DUIs. Sumner said a 2009 reform act makes the consequences of DUI in South Carolina some of the strongest in the nation. One of those is the mandatory video taping law that records a person from the time they are pulled over to be recorded on video and audio.

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