Tough DUI bill 'Emma's Law' passes big hurdle in SC

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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COLUMBIA, S.C. —

On Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers in the South Carolina House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass Emma’s Law. The vote came amid fears that some would try to weaken the bill that cracks down on first-time DUI offenders.

Outside the state house Wednesday, supporters rallied for the bill, including the family of Emma Longstreet.  The 6-year-old was killed on New Year's Day 2012 in Lexington, as her family drove to church.

"I have wept every day," said her father, David Longstreet, sitting with his wife, and sons.

Longstreet stood before a crowd of cameras, and relayed the horrifying details of the death of his daughter.

"She had been crushed in the center of the van, pinned where there was no way I could get to her," he said. "It took 45 minutes to get her out of the car."

The drunken driver was a repeat offender.  Through their pain, David and Karen Longstreet decided to fight to change the law.  They caught the ear of their state senator, and pushed Emma's Law.

On Wednesday, The Longstreets were surrounded by family, and lawmakers outside the state house, where inside many were pushing for the bill with Emma's name on it. The bill would make first-time dui offenders who's blood alcohol level is greater than point one five have an ignition lock put into their car. The offender would have to use the device to drive for six months, once he or she had their license back.
 
The hope of supporters is that the bill will survive, with no further attempts to weaken it.  The bill was initially supposed to require the ignition lock for a dui driver who blew a .12 or higher, but it was changed two weeks ago to a higher level of .15.

Some organizers of the rally felt that any bill, even a watered down bill, was a start.  Katie Parham was a key organizer of the rally.

"It's very sad when children have to die before legislation gets passed, but the time is now," she said.

Late Wednesday, it looked like  Emma's Law was jumping its final hurdle.  It's expected to face one more vote in the Senate, and then could land on the governor's desk by next week.

Advocates said passing Emma's Law could cut drunken driving deaths and injuries by 20 percent or more in South Carolina.