Live 5 News Investigates: Reason to run from police

Live 5 News Investigates: Reason to run from police

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 News investigation has uncovered what many police agencies say is a weak failure to stop for a blue light law.

Our investigation showed South Carolina's law is not as strong as similar laws in neighboring states.

Some officers say the way our law is written, it gives offenders little or no jail time.

Under our law, if an officer turns on his blue light and gets behind you, you have to pull over.

"I think most people, law abiding citizens, they see blue lights in the rear view mirror, they pull over because they want to comply with the law. It's that five percent that want to take a chance and put everybody else in danger," said Hanahan Police Lt. Michael Fowler.

Lately, it seems lots of people are running from the police.

In most cases they get caught.

However in a recent chase in Hanahan, the suspect crashed and two passengers were ejected from the car and killed.

Police say an innocent person could have been killed during a recent chase in West Ashley.

It happened in broad daylight in congested afternoon traffic.

"People are desperate. They don't want to go to jail," said Fowler.

Fowler says there's another problem. Our blue light law actually gives suspects a reason to run.

He says the state law is too weak, and offenders have little to fear.

Under our law, failure to stop for a blue light first offense without serious injury or death is a misdemeanor.

A conviction calls for a minimum $500 fine or anywhere from 90 days to a maximum three years in prison.

"The problem we see with it is the law doesn't have any teeth," Fowler said.

Compare our law with North Carolina's running from a blue light law, which is stronger than South Carolina's.

It pushes the first offense up to a felony if there are other factors involved, such as driving 15 miles over the speed limit or allegedly driving drunk with a blood alcohol level of .14 or higher.

Under Georgia's law, a conviction calls for a larger fine than in South Carolina.

There is a minimum $500 dollar to maximum $5,000 fine.

However the jail time is less than in our state, from ten days in jail to a year in prison.

"The penalty for violating the law should be such that you don't want to do it. The risk cannot outweigh the reward," Fowler said. "It's time for the legislature to get on board and put some teeth into the law."

We took fowler's concerns to State House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

"We have to do something about it," Harrell said. "To see all of these chases happening, to see officers' lives put in danger, the folks are protecting us. We've got to make some changes in order to get people's attention."

Harrell believes the $500 fine for first offense is too low and should be at least one thousand dollars.

"The incentive needs to be the fear. The penalty needs to be such that somebody would think twice if they're aware of the fine for doing it," he said.

Fowler agrees, but says there should also be more, mandatory jail time for