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Drunk driving charges may result in ignition interlock devices

In South Carolina, there are a wide variety of potential consequences associated with drinking while driving. The severity of the consequences can increase if a driver exhibits a high blood alcohol content, for example, or refuses to submit to field sobriety testing or a breathalyzer. Newly-proposed legislation in South Carolina may make these consequences even more serious for drivers facing drunk driving charges for the first time.

The proposed legislation is known as Bill S.137. The bill proposes the installation of an ignition interlock device in the vehicle of anyone who blows higher than a .12 upon being pulled over. Anyone who refuses to take a breathalyzer test during field sobriety testing could also be eligible for this penalty.

Currently under South Carolina law, the installation of an ignition interlock device is required for repeat offenders. However, it is not a requirement for first-time offenders no matter what their blood alcohol content. If this bill is passed into legislation, drivers facing DUI charges will no longer have to deal with license suspension, although they will have to contend with the embarrassment, cost, and overall hassle of the interlock device.

Advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are in support of the passage of this legislation. The bill has also met some opposition, though. The most common opposing argument is that the consequences are too harsh for a first time offender.

If approved, this legislation can have a significant impact on a defendant. Being charged with a crime affects the accused individual's reputation and livelihood, of course. Still, an ignition interlock could make this negative impact even worse due to its financial impact. Along with installation fees, an ignition interlock costs about $70 per month to maintain. That bill would have to be paid by the convicted drunk driver.

The proposal is still being developed by South Carolina lawmakers, but motorists throughout the state will want to keep their eyes and ears open for any developments in this potentially controversial legislation.

Source: Fox Carolina, "Bill would require breathalyzers in convicted DUI driver's cars," Jennifer Phillips, April 30, 2013

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