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S.C. lawmaker wants changes to DUI charges

A South Carolina legislator has prefiled a bill ahead of the state House's reopening that would keep someone from being charged with drunk driving with a blood-alcohol level below 0.05 percent.

A 0.08 reading on a test is considered legally drunk in the state, which has the highest rate of traffic deaths related to alcohol in the nation. Two years ago, 44 percent of South Carolina traffic deaths were DUI-related.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people begin to exhibit a reduced ability in certain functions once their blood-alcohol content reaches 0.04 percent. The legislator disagrees.

The representative is also an attorney who said his client's case provides a perfect example of why such a law is necessary. His client registered a 0.008 reading on a blood test yet still was charged with DUI because of the slightest trace of alcohol in her system. He said that prosecutors and police have far too much power to file DUI charges in cases that don't warrant it.

The legislator said that even though the South Carolina legislature has approved harsher penalties for drinking and driving, it has not kept the number of DUIs from amassing. He said he would like to take drunk driving laws a step further by having police dispatched to sites where people are drinking. The officer could administer a Breathalyzer test to measure the blood-alcohol level and keep the driver from getting behind the wheel.

While that might sound like a great idea that isn't practical, the rest of the elected official's plan is worth a study to explore just how soon a person becomes impaired by alcohol. If such a law could do away with the cost and pain the wrongly accused could feel from needless prosecution, it will be worth the efforts.

Source: WBTW, "No DUI charges for SC drivers under .05 BAC under prefiled bill," Robert Kittle, Dec. 12, 2012

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