Lawmakers in South Carolina have been addressing the state's DUI laws claiming many of the people who are caught driving drunk never go to trial due to a technicality in the law.
A story on WCNC.com stated that almost half of all traffic deaths in South Carolina are DUI-related. However, prosecutors and anti-drunk driving campaigners complain that many of the people who are caught driving drunk do not appear before a court.
Earlier this month, at least 100 lawmakers, advocates and law enforcement officers arrived at a room at the capitol in Columbia to voice their grievances about the way the state DUI law is written.
It followed an NBC Charlotte story which highlighted the supposed loopholes. The story made reference to a 2009 amendment that made it so video recordings of the DUI incident scene have to include any field sobriety testing. Solicitors have claimed the word "any" is interpreted overly literally.
The prosecutors showed NBC Charlotte's examples of a number of cases in which a suspect failed sobriety and blood alcohol content tests. However, their case never made it to a jury trial because of so- called "loopholes" associated with the video.
"Those problems include visuals of suspects' feet being briefly obscured by the police cruisers' hoods, shadows partially obscuring a person's head and a person's back foot obscuring the view of their front foot as they perform a field sobriety test," reported NBC Charlotte.
Solicitors said the story has prompted calls for changes. "A lot of it started in November when the [NBC Charlotte] story ran and people started to see the types of cases that are being thrown out because of these technicalities," explained Assistant 16th Circuit Solicitor Aaron Hayes.
On Feb. 14, Solicitor Kevin Brackett showed an audience examples used in NBC Charlotte's story in which "loopholes" associated with the video, prevented cases proceeding. The law is applied to all DUI charges that include field sobriety tests, including those involving deaths.
"The law is written in such a manner we can never get the cases through court," claimed York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant.
Steven Burritt with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of South Carolina, weighed into the debate pointing out South Carolina is "number one in the country for drunk driving," and questioning if the loophole was making the situation more serious.
Now York County Representatives have introduced a bill (H.3441) into the S.C. House that would prevent a case from being thrown out due to a technicality in the video. Instead, the court would have the option to review the video evidence and address the technical issue, or dismiss the case.
The MADD website states drunk driving accounts for 43.7 percent of all traffic deaths in South Carolina. As Columbia DUI accident injury lawyers we represent victims of drunk drivers and the families of those who have been killed. Although the number of cases that fail to make it to court is alarming, police officers also have a responsibility to capture field sobriety tests in a clear manner to ensure fairness to all parties involved. If you have been involved in a DUI accident, you should contact Masella Law at 803.938.4852.