Emma's (DUI) Law Gains Momentum

House to take up proposed bill, 3-year-old victim to be laid to rest

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By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- As the family of Josiah Jenkins prepares his funeral this week, lawmakers at the state house next week plan to proceed on a bill, they say, could have saved the child's life and will likely save others if signed into law.

The mangled vehicle highway safety officials say three-year-old Josiah Caden Jenkins was in when he and his mother were hit by a convicted drunk driver last week is a sobering reminder of a proposed law---and an ignition interlock device---that may have prevented the crash and the child's death.

"It's one of the most important pieces of legislation pending in the general assembly," said state senator Joel Lourie, who proposed the bill more than a year ago.

When his proposed Emma's Law goes before a House subcommittee next week (the measure passed in the Senate in February, 2013), he will push for the ignition interlock mechanisms to be mandatory not voluntary for first time offenders. RepEat offenders would face stiffer penalties.

"If you want your license back you will have to have the ignition interlock machine installed on your car and depending on how many offenses would determine the length of time. It could be several years," said Lourie.

If an inebriated driver blows an unacceptable level on the device the engine won't start. It's the crux of Emma's Law, named for 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunk driver in January 2012.
The driver in that case was a repeat offender. Authorities say 44-year-old Lonnie Gross III, had at least four prior DUI convictions when he crashed into the car Josiah Jenkins was in.

The boy's mother survived.

"What happened to Emma's family, also this past week, could've been prevented had this technology been in the automobile."

The legislation could make it to governor's desk for approval by the end of this legislative session, which is in June.

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