Senators in South Carolina seem determined to move ahead with a DUI bill that would create a “tiered penalty system” for drunk drivers. This means, the drunker you are, the stiffer the penalty. According to an article in the Augusta Chronicle, a legislative panel resumed work last week on the said DUI bill, which is being called a hot topic in the senate.

Under the current law, all drunk drivers are treated equally. Whether a driver is at or over the legal blood alcohol level of .08 or at twice or thrice the legal limit, they are handed out very similar punishments. Of course, the only way it would vary is if the person in question was involved in an auto injury accident or a serious or fatal injury accident. In such cases, the drunk driver could face a DUI and vehicular manslaughter charge.

South Carolina senators believe H3496 will overhaul the state’s DUI law. While the bill has already passed the house, it needs to get through the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to become a law. If changed, a special committee of House and Senate members will meet to arrive at a version that will then proceed to pass and become law.

This legislation was reportedly stalled in the House last spring. Among the important issues that came up was whether police officers should have to videotape their questioning of a DUI suspect.

A lot of interesting questions are bound to surface in the tiered penalty issue. If police officers were to use cameras, how is the jury know when the officer turned the camera on or off? Can a jury determine how drunk the driver was based on what it sees on a videotape? And finally, will a tiered penalty help reduce the problem of driving under the influence?

Society can better benefit from social and court-ordered programs that help people deal with their problems. Whether a person has a blood alcohol level of .08, 0.16, or 0.32, the act of choosing to drink and drive does not change. And of course, each defendant is innocent until proven guilty.


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