In a couple of months, we will be at the end of 2014. The holidays will be upon us, and it will be time to remember the days gone by and give thanks for all our blessings. In a couple of months, it will also be two years to the day when six year old Emma Katherine Longstreet was killed in a drunken driving accident as she was on her way with her family to church on New Year’s Day.

Her’s was a death that shook the state of South Carolina, and in the days since her death her family and community members have fought a long and hard battle for justice and stricter laws against drunken driving in the state of South Carolina. ‘Emma’s Law’ was passed earlier in May this year; a victorious culmination of the efforts of her family members and loved ones.

How it all happened

On the morning of New Year’s Day 2012, little Emma Longstreet was on her way to church with her family when a car slammed into their vehicle. Emma was killed on the spot and her father and two brothers were seriously injured and had to be taken to hospital. The car that caused the accident was being driven by a 26 year old Gilbert man named Billy Hutto.

On investigation, it was revealed that Hutto had run a red light at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Old Cherokee Road before he crashed into the Longstreet’s car. A breath analyzer test showed that Hutto’s blood alcohol level at the time of crash was about .16―almost double the level of permitted BAC when driving. The judge set Hutto’s bond at the maximum limit of $500,000 which according to DUI Greenville SC lawyers was a foregone move given the nature and seriousness of the crime.

Hotto is a worthless human being

The most important issue that was brought to light during the investigation was that Hotto had been convicted of a DUI prior to the accident which killed Emma. Up until then, the state of South Carolina had not made any provisions in the law to handle repeat offenders. Even as other US states made the ignition interlocking law mandatory for convicted DUI offenders, South Carolina had kept mum on the issue. Until the day Emma Longstreet died, and her family decided to take up the fight.

What is Emma’s law?

Emma’s law is critical for a state like South Carolina which has a historical record of high DUI numbers. The law, say DUI Greenville SC lawyers, expands the purview of punishment for all drivers convicted of a DUI. Under this law, all offenders – including first time offenders – who have been found to have a BAC level of .15 or greater will need to install an ignition interlock on their car or any vehicle they drive for a period of six months following the conviction.

First time offenders who have a BAC in the range of .08-.14 may opt for an interlock in lieu of a license suspension. A repeat offense will make it mandatory for the driver to have an ignition interlock on their car for as long as they drive.

It may sound like a harsh punishment for drivers, especially first time offenders. But the truth is that if this law had been in place in 2012, chances are high that Emma would still have been alive today. In the state of South Carolina, where 41% of all traffic deaths are caused by drunken drivers, Emma’s law is a lease of hope.

So, this year when you give thanks on New Year’s Day, do not forget to include the chirpy 6 year old angel who had to give up her life so that the rest of us could walk safely on our streets.