A new law in South Carolina is intended to toughen drunken driving penalties in the state. The new rules take effect in February 2009.
Gov. Mark Sanford signed bill H3496 into law. It ties increased penalties to the driver’s level of intoxication. Repeat offenders will face greater punishment. In addition, longer automatic license suspensions will result for drivers who refuse breath tests.
Supporters say change is needed in South Carolina because the state has one of the highest alcohol-related fatality rates in the nation.
The tiered system mandates up to 30 days in jail or $400 in fines for people found to be driving with a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent, but below 0.10 percent. Repeat offenders would face up to one year behind bars or up to $5,100 in fines. Third offenses would result in as many as three years in prison or up to $6,300 in fines. Fourth offenses could result in imprisonment for as long as five years.
People found to be operating vehicles with BAC levels of at least 0.10 percent, but below 0.16 percent, would face 30 days in jail or $500 in fines. Repeat offenses would result in as much as two years in prison or up to $5,500 in fines. Third offenses would result in as much as four years in prison or up to $7,500 in fines. Fourth offenses could result in as much as six years behind bars.
The state’s worst drunken drivers are defined as those with alcohol levels of 0.16 percent or more. First-time offenders would face up to 90 days in jail, or $1,000 in fines. Repeat offenses would result in up to three years in prison, or up to $6,500 in fines. Third offenses would result in as much as five years in prison, or up to $10,000 in fines. Fourth offenses could result in imprisonment for as long as seven years.
People who refuse to take tests to determine whether they are driving under the influence of alcohol would have their licenses suspended for six months. Existing state law allows for three-month suspensions.
To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina in 2008, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor