DUI Reform in SC Closer to Reality, Say Lawmakers

'Emma's Law' would toughen penalities for first, repeat offenders

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By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- The proposed Emma's Law, name for Emma Longstreet, a then-six-year-old, who was killed by a drunk driver two years ago, cleared a major hurdle today as a house criminal law subcommittee gave the green light to proceed to the next level in the legislative process.

According to the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Debbie Weir, getting proposed DUI reform legislation out of committee debates at the state house and into law could drastically lessen the aftermath of driving under the influence fatalities like this one in South Carolina that took the life of three year old Josiah Jenkins.

"It's a win to get it out the committee," said Weir. "There's still work to be done on it as far as an amendment is concerned, but we're please it's come out of the committee."

That amendment, handed down by the house criminal law subcommittee Thursday, changes the wording of the proposed Emma's Law. The changes would require first time and repeat DUI offenders with a blood alcohol level of point one-five or higher to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

The original wording of the bill, passed by the senate last year, stated a blood alcohol content level of point one two or higher.

It's not exactly the outcome victims of drunk driving who assembled on the state house steps were hoping for, but they say it's a good next step in making Emma's Law a reality. This legislation, as a whole, they claim would reform DUI laws in South Carolina by placing interlock devices in vehicles that disable the vehicle when the driver has had too much to drink.

"These devices do work," said David Longstreet, Emma's father. "I believe people will be surprised. So over Christmas, thanksgiving and New Year's, we'll see a change."

"I've gotten phone calls from people who admit that they drink and drive," said Columbia/Richland Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, grand-uncle of Josiah Jenkins." But, since seeing everything going on, they've had a change of heart and say they won't do it anymore."

This piece of proposed legislation is that, legislation. It won't be come law unless and until Governor Nikki Haley signs the bill into law. That could be the case before the legislative session ends in June.

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