All You Should Know About Emma’s Law in South Carolina

Although many laws have been enacted to help prevent drunk drivers from endangering others, too often a repeat offender gets back behind the wheel and it eventually ends disastrously. It is always a tragedy when a life is lost, but more so when that death is a child’s. In 2012, in Lexington, South Carolina, six-year-old Emma Longstreet lost her life to a repeat drunk driver. Around 30,000 people in South Carolina are charged with DUIs each year and after Emma’s death, 500 more people died due to inebriated drivers before lawmakers acted on her family’s pleas. After much debate, this devastating loss spurred the South Carolina legislature to draft a new law to keep impaired drivers off the road, and in April 2014 Governor Nikki Haley signed Emma’s Law.

Emma’s Law requires people convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or higher or who do not provide a sample for testing to have an ignition interlock device, often called a Breathalyzer, on their vehicle for six months. This device fits onto the convicted person’s ignition and prevents it from starting if the driver’s breath registers any alcohol content over 0.02. A second conviction of DUI with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, results in requiring the ignition interlock to remain on the offender’s vehicle for two years. 

Attempting to avoid the ignition interlock by tampering with the device or its results can result in a jail sentence of up to thirty days. If a person convicted and required to use the ignition interlock is caught driving without the device installed, they can be sentenced to jail for up to a year.

Emma’s Law has faced criticism for allowing too many inebriated drivers to slip through the cracks and continue endangering other motorists and any one of us could end up needing a drunk driving crash lawyer to help them through the struggles following a car accident with someone driving under the influence. If you find yourself in that situation, visit Louthian Law to get justice. One major criticism levied against Emma’s Law is that for first offenders, the blood alcohol level required to install the device is nearly double the legal limit. Original drafts of the law required the device for those convicted with a BAC of 0.12 or more, but it was ultimately pushed to a higher number.

The state’s division of Mothers Against Drunk Driving argues that all people accused of DUI should use an ignition interlock, even if they are not convicted. They have released a three-year report of statistics on driving under the influence that demands law makers close loopholes in South Carolina’s drunk driving laws and require all DUI offenders to use the ignition interlock device. The state chapter’s executive director, Steve Burritt says, “The states that have the strongest laws and require them for all offenders have very meaningful reductions in DUI deaths.”

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