When S.C. state troopers chase a drunken-driving suspect into North Carolina, the driver can be given the choice of where to face charges.
"They always want to come back to South Carolina," said Kevin Brackett, solicitor for York County.
Last week, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford signed a law toughening the state's DUI law, which will go into effect next year. But critics say it will still be a pale comparison of stronger statutes in North Carolina.
Among the changes, the law:
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• Creates a tiered system for punishment based on how much a person has had to drink.
• Suspends someone's license for six months instead of three for refusing a breath test.
• Removes technicalities such as requiring law enforcement officers to Mirandize a suspect twice in a DUI case.
It's what the law does not do that has people calling for more changes -- and to be more like North Carolina's.
In a ranking done by Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2006, North Carolina ranked fourth in effectiveness for dealing with drunken driving. South Carolina ranked 50 out of 51. Only Wisconsin ranked lower.
"I think we can all say (North Carolina's law) is better than South Carolina's," said Isaac Avery, retired attorney general's office legal adviser to the Highway Patrol in Raleigh.
The states hardly compare in their DUI statutes, Brackett said.
"North Carolina has a very strong law," he said.
In North Carolina, a person is deemed to be guilty of driving under the influence at 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level.
In South Carolina, an attorney can argue at 0.08 blood-alcohol content, their client was not under the influence.
Brackett says South Carolina should consider adopting N.C. statutes. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel," he said.
According to MADD's 2006 statistics, 36 percent of North Carolina's traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. In South Carolina, it was 50 percent.
"We went from last to something other than last," said Trey Goudy, solicitor of Spartanburg County, who has pushed for strong laws to punish drinking under the influence.
Another thing hamstringing South Carolina is that its state troopers must prosecute their own DUI cases through much of the state.
"We got away from that in the '60s," said Kimberly Overton, chief resource prosecutor with the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, noting North Carolina has prosecutors in every court.
It not only takes the troopers off the road, but it requires hours to prosecute. With the complexities of the law some troopers are not equipped to face lawyers who specialize in DUI cases, Overton said.
"They don't have the training," she said. "That's a huge, huge disadvantage."
Because of all the things that need improvement, Goudy said, he is not ready to celebrate the new law.
"To claim victory is too early," he said.