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New law increases penalties for first-time offenders

A new South Carolina law called Emma's Law requires even first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. The law was named after a girl who was killed in a drunk driving accident while going to church with her family in 2012. Emma's Law says that a first-time offender with a blood alcohol content of more than .15 percent must use such a device for six months. If a driver is convicted for a second time, the device must be used for two years.

Drivers will not be able to get their licenses back until they complete the Ignition Interlock Program. The ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has a blood alcohol content of more than .02 percent. Those who have an interlock device must pay $130 a month out of their own pocket. Reports say that 750 drivers in the state have such a device in their vehicles.

In the past, only drivers who were convicted of multiple DUIs faced the prospect of an ignition interlock device being installed in their vehicle. Before the law took effect on Oct. 1, 7,700 drivers were eligible to have a device installed in their cars. However, 10,000 people are expected to be put in the program over the next decade.

Those who are charged with drunk driving may face a variety of consequences. Common penalties include a fine, license revocation and jail time. However, a DUI defense attorney may be able to help a driver avoid some or all of these penalties. This may be done by disputing the legality of a police checkpoint or other traffic stop or by disputing the results of a blood or breath test. A successful defense could lead to a favorable plea deal or charges being thrown out.

Source: WSPA, "Emma's Law Cutting Down DUI Deaths With Car Breathalyzer", Addie Hampton, October 15, 2014

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