South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law
On Wednesday afternoon around 4 O’clock, I received a message from the Senate: They had agreed with the House’s Amendments to Senator Lourie’s Bill #137. I immediately brought it to the attention of Speaker Bobby Harrell, who was very busy ushering The House of Representatives through its most dynamic week of the Legislative Session. It was near-certain that the 2014 Bill known as “Emma’s Law” In South Carolina had finally passed. Clearly, South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law, but It was time to address What those DUI Changes really mean.
By God’s Grace, good health (and a little luck) I haven’t missed a day of Legislative Session in the South Carolina House for 24 years. So, when South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law, you’d probably assume that means I can read any piece of legislation and understand it backwards & forwards after a mere glance. Well, sorry to admit it, but I can’t. In reality, even short, concise Bills aren’t always as “simple” as they sound. Just ask Clarendon County’s rising star, Rep. Robert Ridgeway! (Can anybody say “Woolly Mammoth?)
So a 47-page chunk of Legislation like the 2014 “Emma’s Law” — South Carolina’s new DUI Law — has proven to be as complicated as it is comprehensive. In addition to my tenure with the House, I have also spent 26 years practicing DUI & Criminal Defense in Columbia, S.C. This week, when the S.C. Senate concurred in the House Amendments to Emma’s Law, I felt is was crucially important to study the New South Carolina DUI Law and decipher precisely how South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law. With Governor Nikki Haley’s likely signature, Ignition interlock device requirements in South Carolina should become a reality within hours.
Firstly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the driving force behind this Legislation: Emma Longstreet and her family. This true innocent lost her life to a drunk driver just miles from where I live. To be sure, there are few things more inspiring than watching a family like theirs channel such pain and use it to effect major, substantive change they believe in. Due to the remarkable effort they launched after this tragedy, it is incumbent on all of us to consider how South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law. I have much respect for them.
South Carolina DUI Law
I also hold much respect for the fact that in America, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And just because you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence in South Carolina does not mean that you are guilty of it. So let’s jump in here and get a handle on the major, new substantive changes made by Emma’s Law and how it changes South Carolina DUI. How does Emma’s Law affect the S.C. DUI Statutes? How does Emma’s Law alter current Penalties for drunk driving in South Carolina?
If you’re confused, don’t feel badly. This one is intimidating. I have spent hours analyzing the 47-page Bill, speaking to proponents and opponents, legislative staff and fellow attorneys, and I still don’t grasp all the nuances. (Frankly, I don’t think anyone does at this stage.) But in my analysis, getting a firm a grip on just how South Carolina DUI Changes with Emma’s Law was easier by first wrapping my head around what Emma’s Law does NOT change.
Does all South Carolina DUI Change with Emma’s Law?
The new South Carolina DUI Law does not affect someone if they
1.Have been charged with DUI before October 1, 2014,
2.Have been charged with DUI after October 1, 2014, but have yet to be CONVICTED,
3. Are charged with DUI, but blew a .14 or LOWER, or,
4. Have their license suspended because they refused to blow into the breathalyzer, or data master.
Now don’t get too excited about #4. You will still have your license suspended for refusing to blow, or if you blow too high. My point is that Emma’s Law doesn’t CHANGE anything. Everything on my Cromer Law Offices, LLC website is still accurate about challenging your initial suspension in an Administrative Hearing in South Carolina. Same is the case with my descriptions of temporary alcohol licenses in South Carolina, route restricted licenses in South Carolina, ADSAP requirements for suspended licenses in South Carolina, etc…
So let’s move onto Emma’s Law In South Carolina:
with Emma’s Law?
Major Change #1
After October 1, 2014, If you get CONVICTED of DUI–note I did not say “charged” here — and you blow .15 or higher , You MUST install an Ignition interlock device on your car, PROVE that you installed it, and be issued an “Ignition interlock restricted license”. (Note I say MUST here, indicating that you cannot just say “the heck with this Ignition interlock device , I’ll just wait out my six (6) months and get my license back”) If you cannot get an ignition interlock device installed on your car, you cannot drive. Ever again . Rephrase: The bottom line is you will never drive again until you do so, for six (6) months, with the ignition interlock device installed on your car. [that's right, I said NEVER DRIVE AGAIN.] During this six (6) months you may only drive when you successfully blow into that device. And there’s more. (see Laura Hudson’s comments that follow). You pay for the cost of of the ignition interlock device. If you mess up, your suspension is extended, your fines increase, and I’m just talking about a FIRST offense here. The South Carolina Ignition Interlock Device Program has a multitude of policies and procedures and is administered within the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon & Parole.
After October 1, 2014, if you get CONVICTED of DUI– once again, note I did not say “charged” here — and you REFUSED the Breathalyzer, or data master, your license is suspended for six (6) months. The difference here is that during that six (6) months, you do not HAVE to install and pay for the Ignition interlock device as I just described. You do not HAVE to obtain an “Ignition interlock restricted license” as I just described. (In other words, you CAN say, ” the heck with this Ignition interlock device , I’ll just wait out my six (6) months and get my license back”) But… you can no longer obtain a “Provisional License” and continue to drive like you can now. So… bear in mind you if you don’t want to hassle with the ignition interlock device, you won’t be driving. Park it. You’re grounded. The only way you MAY keep driving is to get the Ignition interlock device, pay for it, etc…
After October 1, 2014, if you get CONVICTED of DUI– once again, note I did not say “charged” here — and you blew UNDER a .15, your license is once again suspended for six (6) months. The difference here is that you don’t HAVE to install and pay for the ignition interlock device like you would if you blew over a .15,You do not HAVE to obtain an “Ignition interlock restricted license” like you would if you blew over a .15, and you MAY “wait out ” your suspension like you can if you refused the breathalyzer, or data master. But …if you want to drive, you are eligible to get the “provisional license” currently available under the law as described in my website if you meet those requirements. I know this gets tricky, but understand that I’m talking about a PROVISIONAL License in South Carolina, NOT a “route restricted license in South Carolina”, a
“Temporary Alcohol License in South Carolina” or a new “ignition interlock restricted license In South Carolina Under Emma’s Law”
(Incidentally, you can also “choose” to install the ignition interlock device if you blow under a .15, but I can’t for the life of me think of a single reason why you’d do that…I’ll let you know when or if I figure that one out.)
So take a deep breath. Reflect. And be happy because I am going to stop. For now, anyway.
Please remember that the examples above are for FIRST offenses only. Obviously it gets worse for subsequent offenses. There is so much more to the 2014 Emma’s Law and the changes it makes to South Carolina’s DUI Statutes. This blog is neither intended to be nor represents itself as a complete overview. I just wanted to set forth some basic points about Emma’s Law In South Carolina.Especially in light of the fact that there is SO MUCH CONFUSION and misinformation out there!
So if that’s not everything Emma’s Law Changes about South Carolina DUI Law, What are some examples of additional changes?
*there’s a new, complicated point system assessed for messing up while you have the ignition interlock device installed on your car.
*Your individual suspension time can be increased, depending on that point system.
*There are complicated criteria set up to address circumstances such as when you do not OWN a car, but you MUST be able to drive for your job. (And might I just add here that you better hope your Boss LOVES you!)
*The “look back time” between DUI convictions has changed (i.e., “how far back can they look to see if I’ve ever gotten another DUI?”)
Lastly–and you probably know this but I need to say it LOUDLY–
This is a blog. ( I hope you think it’s a DARN GOOD ONE) But this is not “legal advice”. If you need legal advice…you need to get in touch with a LAWYER. Personally.
As for this attorney, Rest Assured, I’ve been doing this for over 26 years. We are on top of it at Cromer Law Offices, LLC. I will be posting many more details about Emma’s Law in the future. I just didn’t want to overwhelm you at this point before it technically goes into effect. I hope my initial explanation paints a general picture for you. And I hope you never drink and drive in the first place.
If you do get arrested for DUI in South Carolina, especially now that Emma’s Law has passed, I strongly urge to obtain legal help while navigating through these rough waters. I’d be honored if you chose me.
Be safe and I’ll be back soon.
J.L. Mann (Bubba) Cromer is an Attorney in Columbia, whose practice focuses on DUI Defense, Criminal Defense & Probate Administration and Estate Planning. Admitted to practice in South Carolina, California & The District of Columbia, “Bubba” has been in practice for 26 years. In addition to his Solo Practice at Cromer Law Offices, LLC, Bubba Served as the only true Independent In the S.C. Legislature from 1990-1998. For the past 16 years, he has Served as the Reading Clerk of the House. Bubba resides in Columbia, S.C and Rosman, N.C. where he built a cabin 4 years ago. Bubba lives with his Hungarian Golden Retriever,Casper.
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