'Emma's Law' Signed by the Governor

Toughest DUI law on the books to date

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By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- More than two years after Emma Longstreet dies in a drunk driving car crash, her parents witness the governor sign a law in the child's honor.

Not ever in this state has a sitting governor signed DUI legislation as tough as Emma's Law, as Governor Nikki Haley did Wednesday afternoon.

"Emma is smiling down because she has done more in her little life than we could've ever thought would happen in South Carolina," said Haley.

Emma's Law received Haley's coveted John Hancock at a ceremonial signing, bringing to close a lengthy battle between the child's parents, David and Karen, the South Carolina legislature and a very determined community.

"This was citizens getting involved in making our state a better place," said democratic state senator Joel Lourie, the sponsor of the legislation.

Emma Longstreet was killed in January 2012 in Lexington by a repeat convicted drunk driver. The impact of the then-six-year-old's death has gripped a state.

"...to the point where it affected my little one,' said Haley. "He came home and said, 'Mom, you are gonna sign Emma's Law right? 'Cause no one's gonna talk to you if you don't.'"

Consequences of breaking the law are anything but funny, though.
First time DUI offenders with a blood alcohol content level of point one-five or higher will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. If the motorist blows an illegal BAC level, the vehicle won't start.

"There have been over 500 people killed since Emma died on that tragic day New Year's 2012," said Emma's father, David. "So, it's been a long time coming. We can celebrate it and hopefully change some lives."

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, whose three-year-old great-nephew, Josiah, was killed in March by a six-time repeat drunk driving offender, says the message is beginning to hit home for many.

"I've had people call me and say they have changed their minds about drinking and driving because it's just that important not to do so."

Even though the pain still runs deep, Emma's mother, Karen, is hopeful.

"My hope and prayer is that in time we'll see the impact of this law today," said Karen.

Emma's Law goes into effect in South Carolina October first. The governor says the legislation is proof that neither Emma or Josiah died in vain.

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