On January 1st, 2012 David Longstreet’s 6-year-old daughter, Emma Longstreet, passed away due to drunk driving. The family was headed to church when Billy Hutto Junior, who had been drinking all night, ran a red light and slammed into the family’s van. David and his wife, as well as their three sons, were injured during the car accident. Hutto Junior was convicted for the death of Emma Longstreet and is currently serving nine years in jail.
David is urging lawmakers to pass South Carolina’s first get-tough on drunk drivers law after many years. The law ran into difficult on Tuesday when one senator from the Senate blocked the bill for the day. Senator Gerald Malloy asked for the bill to be carried over for the day so that he and other senators had the opportunity to review any changes that were made to the bill over the last year.
The amended version already unanimously passed the House on April 2, 2014 and now the Longstreet’s and other survivors of drunk driving accidents are awaiting recognition from the Senate. People who are supporting the bill are hoping that it passes the Senate without any additional changes. If the Senate decides to make additional amendments then there could be a series of other legislative barriers that may ultimately prevent the law from passing.
The bill includes stricter blood alcohol requirements for drivers and harsher penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). In the latest House amendments, the blood alcohol level requirement changed from .12 to .15 for interlock systems, which would set a new standard for any person pleading guilty to or being convicted of first offense DUI. The new bill also would require that anyone who is convicted of a DUI with blood alcohol content of .15 or higher would have a required ignition interlock installed on their car. The driver would be required to blow into the interlock before starting the car and if the interlock detects alcohol then the car would not start. The bill aims to close some of the loopholes that have allowed people convicted of drunk driving to get back on the road.
According to studies that have been analyzed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, interlock systems are in widespread use and significantly help to lower fatalities associated with DUI incidents. Although South Carolina currently implements ignition interlocks this would expand the number of individuals convicted of a DUI who receive the interlock system. Members of the House proposed an amendment that some thought would threaten the viability of the bill; however, the House was equally split on the amendment and the bill is rolling through to the Senate without any new changes. If you or someone you loved has been a victim of drunk driving then you can call South Carolina’s Solomon Law Group at 803-392-1106.