Wednesday 02.20.08 was dominated by H.3496, a bill to tighten up our DUI laws. Statistics show SC may be as high as 3rd in the nation for alcohol related deaths on our highways. All agree something’s got to be done to make our roads safer, yet there’s 46 opinions in the Senate as to the best way to make sure drunks are discouraged from getting behind the wheel of an automobile. Some will argue that treatment is the answer while others will argue that stiff penalties are the answer. Is our conviction rate acceptable? Is funding of our highway patrol the key? Do we need to lower the permissible .08% blood alcohol level? Do we need to take impairment into consideration? Many will argue that repeat offenders are the problem. Should we smack the first time offenders and bury the repeat offenders under the jail?
This bill creates a “tiered” system of penalties. In other words, penalties will be proportional to blood alcohol levels. This legislation strengthens penalties at all levels especially for repeat offenders. This bill requires two readings of the Mirada rights. This is a change to the current requirement. Currently a law enforcement officer must “mirandize” the accused offender three times. This triplicate reading of rights has been found burdensome to law enforcement officials.
Interestingly, the SC House GOP Caucus blasted the Senate version. They claim: “Now that the House version is back home, we can put teeth back in our DUI laws and debate this in a conference committee.” I’ve only been here 4 years, but I can’t imagine how they can claim to have a bill in their hands before it gets 3rd reading in the Senate. Evidently, this release was written before the Senate finished its work on the bill. I think someone is getting trigger-happy with the Outlook “send” button.They accuse the Senate for weakening the bill, yet the claims point to House language that the Senate agreed to. click here to view the press release.
Simply put, the House can neither “concur” or “non-concur” on a bill until they get it. If H. 3496 gets a “non-concur” from the House, a conference committee will settle the differences. H. 3496 received 3rd reading to day (Thurs 02.21.08), but they won’t have the opportunity to take this vote until next Tuesday, since they went home early.