On March 20, 2014, a key subcommittee hearing related to the potential passage of South Carolina Senate Bill S.137 (a/k/a Emma’s Law) was held at the South Carolina Legislature. The hearing was well attended and many voices were present urging the subcommittee to pass “Emma’s Law.” S.137 has been renamed “Emma’s Law” due to the tragic death of the child Emma Longstreet at the hands of a multiple and repeat drunk driving offender in Columbia last year. Her unfortunate death has galvanized community support for the passage of S.137. Debbie Ware, statewide chairman for MADD, emphasized that, according to several national studies, 67 percent of failed drunk driving collisions involve a repeat offender; and additionally, a repeat drunk driving offender is eight times more likely to be involved in a failed DUI accident than a driver with only one prior DUI conviction. After hearing testimony from various citizens, the subcommittee voted 5-0 to send “Emma’s Law” onto the full House of Representatives Criminal Law Committee for its consideration. Most observers believed that “Emma’s Law” will be fully endorsed by the South Carolina House of Representatives, the South Carolina Senate and will be signed into law by Governor Haley before the end of the 2014 session.
The major points which comprise” Emma’s Law” are as follows:
- Ignition Interlock Devices:
First offense convictions for drunk driving
An ID would be mandatory on all drivers convicted in criminal court of first offense DUI if they refused to provide a breath sample or registered .15 or higher on the breath test that was a part of their criminal conviction for drunk driving.
- Repeat offenders: Repeat drunk driving/DUI offenders will now be able to drive as soon as they can successfully enroll in the IID program. The focus here is in allowing repeat DUI offenders to drive legally with successful enrollment and completion of the IID program.
- A 16 month lead time is envisioned between passage and implementation of “Emma’s Law” in order to give SC-DMV the necessary time to be able to fully implement “Emma’s Law” requirements.
- “Emma’s Law” will contain a much stiffer penalty than is currently on the books for driving under suspension and for driver’s caught driving without their required IID.