"Emma's Law" Passes SC House Subcommittee to Fight DUIs - WSPA.com

"Emma's Law" Passes SC House Subcommittee to Fight DUIs

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Supporters of Emma's Law packed a House hearing. Supporters of Emma's Law packed a House hearing.
A South Carolina House subcommittee unanimously passed "Emma's Law" Thursday morning, a bill aimed at preventing DUIs and saving lives. It's named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunken driver as Emma and her family were on their way to church in 2012.

The bill would require anyone arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol level of .12 or above to install an ignition interlock device on his car. A  driver has to blow into the ignition interlock before starting the car, and the car won't start if the device detects any alcohol.

"If Emma's Law was in place that day in 2012, and had interlocks been a part of the state system on first-time offense, it's a fact: Emma would be alive today," her father, David Longstreet, told the House subcommittee. The man convicted of killing her had a previous DUI.

But the subcommittee changed the bill. Instead of applying to those with an alcohol level of .12, they raised it to .15, and instead of applying to drivers who are arrested with that alcohol level, it now wouldn't apply until conviction.

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, sponsor of the bill, said after the meeting, "Somebody blows into the breathalyzer and they get a .12 or above? They don't need to wait until they're convicted. They need an ignition interlock machine on their car if they want to get a license back to drive to work. That's what the Senate did and the House took that out. I have concerns about that."

Supporters plan to fight to change the bill back to its original form when it gets to the full House Judiciary Committee. The state Senate has already passed the bill.

Twenty states already have laws requiring ignition interlocks for first-time DUIs, and they've seen a decrease of 67 percent in repeat offenses.

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Robert Kittle
Robert is the 7 On Your Side reporter covering politics and government at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.
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