A man who drove drunk against traffic on Interstate 526 is going to jail, but one of his victims may have saved him from hard prison time.

Quinton Boykin, 26, of Charleston, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony DUI involving great bodily injury. When Circuit Judge Markley Dennis sentenced him to nine years in prison, Boykin’s head sank, but then Dennis finished his sentence: “I’ll suspend that upon the service of 30 days in jail and probation for five years,” Dennis said.

Boykin admitted to driving on the wrong side of I-526 near North Rhett Avenue on May 21, 2011, causing a three-car collision that severely injured one woman, Sabrena Nesbitt.

Nesbitt’s attorney, Jonathan Altman, stood up in court and asked the judge to show mercy on Boykin on her behalf. Altman said Boykin has behaved “incredibly responsible since this horribly irresponsible decision.”

Boykin wrote letters apologizing to Nesbitt and sent regular checks to her to cover her medical costs from injuries in the crash. Nesbitt’s right leg was fractured in two places and her pelvis was also fractured. So far, Boykin has sent Nesbitt about $13,000 since November of last year. “[It’s] something I may never forgive myself for,” Boykin told the court.

Nesbitt was on her way home from work when the crash happened. Boykin had been drinking with his work colleagues on Daniel Island before he drove the wrong way on the interstate a little after midnight.

Boykin’s blood alcohol content was 0.19, twice the legal limit, according to his attorney Andy Savage. He also failed a field sobriety test.

Dennis could have sentenced Boykin up to 15 years in prison. Instead, he sentenced him to the mandatory minimum, which Boykin will be able to serve on weekends.

If not for Nesbitt’s plea for mercy, Boykin, who graduated from college with a civil engineering degree in 2010, may have served more time. “You need to be held to a higher standard of accountability,” Dennis said.

Boykin agreed to pay $30,000 in restitution over a five-year period for Nesbitt’s remaining medical costs. Boykin began serving his sentence on Friday evening.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.