South Carolina lawmakers push for expanded DUI interlock program

South Carolina has a reputation for being among the states with the highest rate of driving under the influence of alcohol. In the latest effort to crack down on intoxicated drivers in the state, South Carolina lawmakers are considering an updated version of the DUI bill known as Emma's Law.

What would Emma's Law require?

One of the main provisions of the proposed legislation would require mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for anyone convicted of driving in South Carolina with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher. The requirement would apply even to first-time DUI offenders, and would require convicted drivers to use the device for at least one year.

An earlier version of the bill proposed mandatory interlock use for anyone convicted of driving in South Carolina with a BAC of .12 or above. However, a House subcommittee amended the legislation to reflect the higher BAC limit. According to a WLTX report on the legislation, this portion of the bill was revised due in part to concerns that adding a new "trigger" BAC limit to South Carolina's DUI laws would be confusing for drivers and for law enforcement. Under existing South Carolina law, driving with a BAC of .15 or above can trigger harsher penalties than ordinary DUI.

What is South Carolina's existing interlock law?

An ignition interlock is a breath alcohol testing device similar to a Datamaster. The device attaches to the ignition system in a car or other motor vehicle and requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle. If alcohol is detected in the driver's breath above a certain threshold, the device prevents the vehicle from starting.

Currently, South Carolina law requires mandatory ignition interlock use only for drivers convicted of two or more DUI offenses. The length of time that the device must remain in place depends on the number of prior DUI convictions the individual has had:

  • Two years for a second DUI offense
  • Three years for a third DUI offense
  • The remainder of the driver's life for a fourth or subsequent DUI offense

In addition to the ignition interlock requirement, drivers convicted of DUI in South Carolina can face heavy fines and potential incarceration. If you are arrested for suspected drunk driving in South Carolina, be sure to get in touch with an experienced DUI defense lawyer at your earliest opportunity to help protect your legal rights and maximize your chances of a favorable resolution.