South Carolina Passes Emma's Law, Changes Ignition Interlock Requirements

The South Carolina Legislature has been debating changes to the state's ignition interlock device laws for nearly an entire year. Each time new legislation was proposed, the bill failed to gain enough support to pass, until recently. Legislators finally agreed on changes known as Emma's Law, named after a child who was killed in a drunk-driving crash by a repeat DUI offender, who was well above the state's legal limit.

The proposal, which was recently signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley, calls for ignition interlock devices to be installed to any motorists convicted of DUI, if their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is 0.15 percent or higher, or if motorists do not provide a sample for testing. These drivers must have the devices in their vehicles for six months.

If the offender is convicted of DUI a second time, the motorist would have to have the device installed for two years. This would be required for any motorists convicted of DUI with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher. Fourth-time offenders would have to have the devices installed in their vehicles for the rest of their lives.

The new law also has very strong punishments for drivers found to be attempting to tampering the devices or failing to install the interlocks. If the driver is found to be trying to bypass the interlock by having someone else blow into the device, it could bring a 30-day jail sentence. If the driver operates a vehicle without having an interlock, it may lead to penalties of up to one year in jail for the failure to install the device.

As these new laws demonstrate, South Carolina is taking a very aggressive approach toward drunk driving. Each conviction only increases the potential consequences that could be imposed on motorists.

If you have been charged with DUI, you could be uncertain about what you need to do to ensure that your rights are protected. Do not speak to police, as they may be trying to obtain information that they hope to use against you in order to support a conviction.

Instead, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after you have been arrested. Your attorney will be able to offer you the assistance you need at such a crucial time, and can help you prepare a strong defense to the allegations. This includes reviewing the actions of law enforcement and other details of your arrest to learn of any possible options that may be available in your specific situation.

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