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Lawmakers Consider New Impaired Driving Penalties


New penalties for motorists convicted of impaired driving offenses were referred to the House Judiciary Committee when the 121st session of the South Carolina Legislature convened in January 2015.

One bill, if enacted, would cost the offender more money. Another bill would impose a technological impediment.

H. 3169 applies to two types of offenders: First, it applies to anyone serving a license suspension or license denial due to an alcohol-related violation. Second, the bill targets anyone determined by law to be a “habitual offender” convicted at least once for driving under the influence or driving with an unlawful blood alcohol concentration.

Basically, the bill would allow such offenders to sidestep the remainder of the suspension or license denial by enrolling in a program that would install an ignition interlock device on the motor vehicle that the offender drives. The device would have to be in place for at least three months, even if the remainder of the restrictive period is less than three months.

“An ignition interlock,” according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “is a breath test device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system. When a convicted drunk driver wishes to start his or her vehicle, he or she must first blow into the device. The vehicle will not start unless the driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration is below a preset level. Costs of the interlock are borne by the offender.”

Interlocks reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MADD cites national survey figures showing widespread public support for the use of the ignition interlock device. According to surveys:

  • 88 percent support interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.

  • 84 percent support ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers.

  • More than 75 percent support requiring interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers.

Another measure would strike offenders’ wallets. H. 3061 would impose a $250 surcharge on “convictions of traffic offenses assigned six points and specific other offenses arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence or otherwise impaired and driving with a suspended license.” The act ideally would go into effect on July 1, 2015.

“The surcharge imposed … must be collected by the clerk of the magistrates court, municipal court, or court of general sessions, forwarded to the municipal or county treasurer, as applicable, and remitted by the municipal treasurer and county treasurer to the State Treasurer monthly by the fifteenth day of each month. The State Treasurer shall credit these surcharges to the State Non-Federal Aid Highway Fund … and used for the purposes provided by law for the revenues of that fund.”

Building on Progress

The state enacted laws in 2014 to tackle the problem of drunk driving. Emma’s Law went on the books in 2014. The law stiffened punishment for convicted drunk drivers, including the ones convicted for the first time. The law is named after 6-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed by a drunk driver.

Surely, more legislation will be introduced with the intent of curtailing drunk driving as well as driving while otherwise impaired. Nevertheless, drunk drivers impervious to the law will continue to cause accidents, some of which will be fatal.

Where the Victims Can Turn for Help

Drunk driving destroys lives. TheCharleston drunk driver victim attorneys at Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC come to the aid of victims of this heinous offense. Helping drunk driver accident victims to get the maximum compensation is one of the practice areas at Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC.

The victim, as a result of injury, must deal with medical expenses, which may be involve long-term treatment. Lost wages is another problem with which drunk driver accident victims are often beset. The pain and suffering alone is compensable. Moreover, the driver should be held accountable. The experiencedCharleston drunk driver victim attorneys will investigate the accident and explain to the victim, or to the surviving family members of decedents, what all of the legal options are.

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