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What is Emma’s Law?

Charges of driving under the influence have always been serious business in South Carolina. On Oct. 1, 2014, Gov. Nikki Haley signed new legislation into law that considerably strengthened the penalties for drunk drivers. This legislation, known as Emma’s Law, is named for a girl who died in an accident involving a repeat DUI offender. Now penalties for drunk driving in South Carolina are stiffer than ever.

Under Emma’s Law, camera-equipped ignition-interlock devices that prevent an impaired driver from starting a car are now required after DUI convictions. First-time and repeat offenders are subject to this mandate.

More specifically, ignition-interlock devices must be employed for six months by first-time offenders who register a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.15 or higher. First-timers who register between 0.08 and 0.15 may opt to use the Breathalyzer in exchange for the standard license suspension. Repeat offenders are under far greater scrutiny: those who register a BAC of only 0.08 or higher must use the device for two years.

Repeat DUI offenders were previously able to drive without any restrictions after a three-year probation period. Now, they must install an ignition-interlock device on their vehicles. Refusal to do so, under any circumstances, means the individual must relinquish license and registration for any vehicle.

Also, any driver under age 21 who refuses to submit to a Breathalyzer test, regardless of the reasons he or she may have been pulled over, automatically loses driving privileges for six months. If an under-21 driver has repeat DUI offenses, refusal to take the Breathalyzer test results in a one-year driving suspension.

These rules, established with the intention of keeping South Carolina roads safe from habitual offenders, make DUI defense strategy complex. An attorney who is well versed in the intricacies of Emma’s Law and other DUI legislation is always your best option.