Tougher DUI Laws in South Carolina Closer to Passage

South Carolina has one of the highest rates of DUI deaths in the nation. In 2012, the last year for which figures are available, nearly 360 people were killed in South Carolina by drunk drivers. carcrash.jpg

To put that into perspective, there were 239 people aboard the missing Malaysian jet flight that has received so much attention of late. Meanwhile, a single alcohol-related fatality in South Carolina can cost upwards of $4.9 million.

Our personal injury attorneys in Anderson recognize it is in the spirit of reversing this trend that South Carolina lawmakers are pressing a measure called “Emma’s Law,” (S. 137) named after 6-year-old from Lexington County who was killed by a repeat OUI offender in January 2012. The intoxicated driver is now serving a nine-year prison sentence.

Introduced by Senator Joel Lourie, the measure passed the state Senate on March 13. Subsequently, it passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 22-0. The bill will next be debated on the House floor.

House members were reminded that seemingly every other day, there is yet another tragedy. Just recently in Cherokee, a woman and her young daughter were killed by a 19-year-old accused drunk driver. The fact that these cases aren’t unique is what is extremely troubling.

Here’s what the new bill would do:

  • First-time DUI offenders who refuse a blood or breath alcohol test after being stopped by police and who are later found guilty of the offense must have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle. These individuals will not be extended a provisional license.
  • First-time DUI offenders who submit to a blood or breath test, are found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent and are later convicted must have an interlock ignition device installed on their vehicle for a full 12 months.
  • Patch loopholes that in the past have made it easier for drivers convicted of DUI to drive again without having to use an ignition interlock.

Right now in our state, we have provisions for ignition interlock use (which are shown to significantly reduce DUI fatalities) but only for offenders with multiple convictions. At this moment, according to The State, only about 700 or so are in use.

The fact that this measure targets first-time offenders has drawn the ire of critics. However, consider a recent claim by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (later proven “true” by Politifact): Not only is it estimated that the majority of first-time convicted drunk drivers have driven drunk at least 80 times prior to that arrest, but most drunk driving fatalities and injuries are caused by first-time offenders.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reports that 93 percent of drivers in fatal crashes with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher had no previous DUI convictions in the last three years.

Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Emma’s Law gets OK from SC House Judiciary Committee, March 25, 2014, By John Monk, The State

More Blog Entries:
Fighting Insurance Auto Companies Over Wrecks With “Excluded” Drivers, March 6, 2014, Anderson Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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