Tougher DUI law discussed in South Carolina

| 10/31/2007

A South Carolina legislative panel is looking into a bill that would toughen the state’s existing drunken driving laws.

Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that is discussing a bill – H3496 – that would overhaul the state’s drunken driving law by creating a tiered system of penalties depending on a driver’s blood-alcohol content and prior record.

The House-approved bill remained in the Senate subcommittee when the session ended this past spring because of concerns about several details. Among the details that stalled the bill is whether law enforcement officials should be required to videotape their questioning of a person suspected of drunken driving.

Hutto said a better solution to save lives might be to add state trooper patrols. The Highway Patrol has dealt with numerous cuts in recent years, Hutto told The State newspaper.

Others said more attention should be directed toward drivers who cause wrecks by being distracted.

Sponsored by Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, the bill would replace existing drunken driving laws by tying penalties to a driver’s blood-alcohol level and prior record – the higher the level and more prior offenses, the stiffer the penalty.

Lawmakers are meeting to discuss whether to push the bill for consideration during the session that begins in January.

To view other legislative activities of interest for South Carolina in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor