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February 12, 2013

South Carolina Senate plan would expand in-vehicle breathalyzers for DUIs

A bill that would expand a state program requiring DUI offenders to install breathalyzers in their vehicles advanced to the Senate Tuesday.

A bill that would expand a state program requiring DUI offenders to install breathalyzers in their vehicles advanced to the Senate Tuesday.

If the bill becomes law, DUI first offenders who blow a .12 blood alcohol content or higher would be required to install a breathalyzer device connected to a vehicle’s ignition system, said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

The devices prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver blows above a certain blood-alcohol level.

The state currently does not require first offenders to install the ignition interlock device, Hutto said. But DUI offenders on their 2nd and 3rd offenses already are required to install the device following the suspension of their licenses as a condition of driving again.

The bill would eliminate the suspension period for 2nd and 3rd offenders and require them to install the device immediately. The program would be optional for other DUI offenders facing a first offense.

Supporters see the changes as a way to give DUI offenders a way to drive legally, which will help them get to work, Hutto said. Now, he added, some people with suspended licenses drive anyway.

The bill advanced out of committee, but with opposition from Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, who expressed concern about forcing some DUI first offenders to use the device.

Malloy asked for a minority report to be placed on the bill, which could make the bill more difficult to pass, said Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, adding that the Senate will have to work to find consensus.

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