A bill that would require breathalyzers to be installed on the cars of some convicted DUI drivers is headed to the South Carolina House of Representatives floor.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill, known as “Emma’s Law.” The legislation would expand the ignition interlock devices to cover any driver convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher, which is nearly twice the legal .08 limit. The devices are currently required after a second conviction in South Carolina.
The bill passed the Senate last year with a .12 minimum, but House members supported a higher number. Rep. Chris Murphy, R-Summerville, said he wanted to match the law with either the .08 or .15. triggers that are already in place. But the bill’s supporters said drivers with a .12 BAC still cause fatal accidents.
The legislation is named after Emma Longstreet, a six-year-old Midlands girl who died after her family’s van was struck by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2012. Her parents David and Karen have been fighting a public battle to get support for the law.
The committee meeting often got heated, pitting legislators who work as attorneys in their private lives against others with law enforcement or non-legal backgrounds.
The committee narrowly rejected a proposal by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, would allow first time offenders to plead guilty, pay $300, and get an ignition interlock device. But they would be able to have that record expunged after three years without any further offenses. The measure failed to pass in an 11-11 vote.