Columbia, SC- South Carolina lawmakers are mulling two pieces of legislation they believe would make roads in the state safer by strengthening the DUI penalties for first offenders and making chemical tests mandatory if the offender causes a deadly accident.
One of the pieces of legislation, Emma’s Law, was would require first time DUI offenders, who have a blood alcohol content above 0.12 to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles. Ignition interlock devices are attached to a vehicle’s ignition, and are similar to breathalyzers used by law enforcement officers. An offender is required to blow into the device, and if their BAC is above the legal limit their car won’t start.
The bill, called Emma’s Law, would also require the offender to obtain a new driver’s license which states they have an ignition interlock so they don’t try to get around the law by driving another vehicle that doesn’t have the device. Additional penalties would kick in for offenders who violate the law, according to the State.
Under South Carolina’s current laws, ignition interlocks are mandatory for a second DUI offense.
Named after a young girl, Emma Longstreet, who was killed in DUI accident, Emma’s law is one among many across the country aimed at making DUI laws stronger. Last year the NTSB and Mothers Against Drunk Driving actively began pushing states to introduce legislation similar to Emma’s Law.
Last month, MADD released data that showed the majority of DUI fatalities are caused by first-time DUI offenders.
“’First-time’ offenders are rarely first-time drunk drivers,” MADD said in a news release. “Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted OWI offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested.”
That statement is confirmed by statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which show 93 percent of drivers involved in a fatal crash with a BAC over .08 had no prior DUI convictions in the past three years.
But the ignition interlock law is not well-received by DUI attorneys who question the reliability of the devices, and argue ignition interlocks can be costly for the offender. Ignition interlocks can give inaccurate readings if they are not properly calibrated. It can cost an offender $200 to $300 to have the devices installed and they must an average of $130 monthly maintenance and calibration fees.
Another bill, S.B. 861, would make chemical tests mandatory for any suspected DUI offender at the scene of a fatal accident who refuses field sobriety tests.
Both bills are in subcommittee but they have a great deal of support among lawmakers.
People know driving under the influence is not only illegal, but can also be dangerous, However when a person is drunk or on drugs they are not necessarily making sound decisions. While there are plenty of people who drive when they know they shouldn’t, there are others who erred in their judgment and deserve to defend themselves against their DUI charges. A DUI attorney can help a person minimize the impact a DUI charge can have on their lives.