Law Enforcement and Safety Advocates Push for Tougher DUI Laws in South Carolina
A group of law enforcement officers, safety advocates, and prosecutors gathered on the State House Grounds on Tuesday, February 10th, to push for tougher DUI laws in South Carolina.
The group wanted to close a loophole in DUI video laws, which prevents a conviction based on video evidence if the suspect wanders out of frame. According to current SC DUI law, the suspect must be visible so that, if the tape is used as evidence during a trial, it will be clear that the officer was following protocol, and the suspect was visibly impaired.
An example that frustrated law makers and law enforcers both involved a suspect getting out of DUI charges because the frame of the video did not show his feet.
“Stumbled through all their field sobriety tests. Open container of alcohol found inside the car. Blew a .24, three times the legal limit in South Carolina. And, if you can see in the video as it’s positioned right now, you can’t see his feet right there. And because of that, this was deemed a violation of the videotaping statute and this case was dismissed,” one attorney said.
“We believe the General Assembly made a strong push to implement dash cameras in traffic patrol cars with the intent to help the prosecution of impaired driving,” said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the sheriff’s association. “Unfortunately, the exact opposite has happened, and the smallest omission or obstruction in a video is serving as an excuse to completely dismiss the DUI charge.”
Bruder argued that prosecution of DUI suspects has become almost impossible in the state because of stringent video camera requirements. However, those laws are also in place to protect suspects who may be innocent of a DUI.
“It’s wonderful evidence,” said Kevin Brackett, the 16th circuit solicitor. “It helps us to make sure that the right thing is done in the cases, and it protects the officer if there is some accusation of wrong doing on their part. But, the jury should be able to decide, ‘Is there enough evidence on that videotape to convince me that this person was impaired?’”
However, the strict video requirements exist to protect suspects who have been pulled over or arrested on DUI charges. Field Sobriety Tests can be difficult and may inform the officer about how nervous the driver is, rather than how intoxicated he or she is.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with DUI Charges in South Carolina
Field sobriety tests (FSTs) were created to help law enforcement gauge the relative sobriety or intoxication of a driver, and cannot be used to determine blood alcohol level. However, a police officer who has pulled a suspicious motorist or who is working a sobriety checkpoint can request a battery of field sobriety tests which will likely then provide the officer with probable cause for an arrest and the use of an evidentiary alcohol test.
In 2009, South Carolina DUI penalties became more intense with stiffer fines and more jail time making it even more critical that you are represented by a South Carolina DUI defense lawyer.
- The higher your BAC, the stiffer the penalties.
- If you refuse to take the breath test, even for a DUI first offense, you will lose your license for 6 months, unless you request, and are successful in having your rights reinstated, in an administrative suspension hearing.
Your punishment for drunk driving is based upon whether:
- the charge is a DUI first, DUI second, DUI third, or subsequent offense;
- your blood alcohol level;
- whether you refused to take a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer;
- you had minors in your vehicle; and
- whether you were involved in an accident that resulted in great bodily injury or death.
As of October, 2014, Emma’s law requires installation of an ignition interlock device for certain DUI convictions.
If you or a loved one face DUI charges in South Carolina, contact the Strom Law Firm today for a free consultation regarding the facts of your case. 803.252.4800