Posted on May 14, 2014

The governor signed Emma’s Law on April 14, making some major changes to South Carolina DUI law. The law does not take effect until October 1, so it impacts your case only if you’re arrested October 1 or after.

While its most-publicized feature is the requirement for ignition interlock devices for certain first offense DUI convictions, the law actually makes many changes to various alcohol– and driving-related offenses.

Here are the major highlights of Emma’s Law affecting South Carolina DUI/DUAC cases:

Convictions Requiring Ignition Interlock and Length of Interlock

  • DUI/DUAC first offense. If you refuse the breath test or blow .15 or more, you can no longer get a provisional license to drive in South Carolina during your 6-month license suspension. Instead, if you refused, you can serve the suspension or get interlock to end it. If you serve most of the suspension before getting interlock, you must have it at least 3 months.

If you blew .15 or more, you must have ignition interlock for 6 months.

If you blow less than .15, you do not need interlock. You can get a provisional license after enrolling in ADSAP and getting SR-22 car insurance.

  • Felony DUI. Interlock is required for three years for DUI convictions that resulted in great bodily injury, and five years for death.
  • DUI-related child endangerment. Interlock is required for three months.

The new law also affects another important aspect of most DUI/DUAC cases:

Impact on Administrative License Suspension

If you refuse a breathalyzer test, the automatic six-month suspension ends if you get interlock. If you blow .15 or more, the automatic one-month suspension ends if you get interlock. In both cases, interlock is required for the remainder of the suspension. For refusals, you must have interlock at least three months. You can still request a hearing to contest the suspension and get a temporary alcohol license to drive in South Carolina until the order from the hearing.

Enforcement and Other Important Highlights of Emma’s Law

  • The law mandates tough penalties for evading its requirements. Offenders requiring interlock caught driving without it face up to a year in prison plus a six month extension of interlock—for a first offense.
  • For an interlock device to be approved for use, it must take a picture of the person giving the breath sample to turn on the car.
  • If a South Carolina resident gets convicted in another state requiring ignition interlock in that state, he or she has to use the interlock here as well.

Some Good News for Offenders—and Taxpayers

Practically gone are lengthy drivers’ license suspension times for felony DUI offenders and repeat offenders that threaten to make them wards of the taxpayer by preventing them from getting a driver’s license that can help them get to work. Instead, these suspensions end when offenders get interlock.  This serves society’s interests in keeping our roads safe and our citizens productive much better than jeopardizing offenders' jobs by forbidding them from driving.

Emma’s Law is the latest in the ever-developing area of DUI law. While the ignition interlock requirement is especially tough for a first-time DUI offender—and the cost of it over time can be enormous for anyone—the idea is to never become an offender in the first place. If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Spartanburg, Gaffney, or Union, schedule a free meeting to discuss your defense by contacting us by email, live chat, or call us toll-free at 888.230.1841.  You can also check out our free report on these cases at the link below.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.