Stirling & O'Connell

How could current S.C. state legislation affect first-time DUIs?

Five years ago, the South Carolina state legislature passed a law named after a six-year-old girl who died in a drunk driving accident in 2012. Under the law, if authorities arrest you on drunk driving charges for the first time, and your blood alcohol level is greater than 0.15 according to a breathalyzer test, you must have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle at your own expense. The device analyzes your blood alcohol content when you blow into it and prevents you from starting your car if it tests over a certain limit. 

According to the News and Observer, some lawmakers in the state legislature do not feel that the current law does enough to reduce the risk of dying in a drunk driving accident in South Carolina, which is the second-highest such risk in the nation, and have introduced legislation that would require installation of an ignition interlock device on the vehicle of everyone charged with drunk driving, whether a first-time or repeat DUI, even if later exonerated by the court or while a trial date is still pending.

The proposal, which is slowly advancing through the two houses of the state legislature, would close a loophole in the current law which allegedly allows a driver arrested on a first-time DUI to avoid the BAC-related requirement for an ignition interlock device by simply refusing to undergo breathalyzer testing. 

Supporters of the proposed law point to statistics showing marked reductions in drunk driving deaths in states that have enacted similar legislation. Critics say that the cost of the device, which drivers must purchase out of their own pockets, is too high, and that it seems unreasonable to require such an expense of people whose cases have not yet gone to trial and may ultimately receive a ruling in their favor.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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