March 12, 2015

No Changes are Needed to South Carolina’s DUI Video Recording Law

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No Changes are Needed to South Carolina’s DUI Video Recording Lawcategories: DUI

In 1998 South Carolina became one of the first states to require and mandate video recording from the officer’s dash cam in DUI/drunk driving cases. In 2009 the South Carolina legislature passed a new, amended and updated law requiring both incident site and breath test site video recordings in DUI cases. Our current law requires that a driver who is accused of violating the DUI law “must have his conduct at the incident site and the breath test site video recorded… the video recording at the incident site must: not begin later than the activation of the officer’s blue lights; include any field sobriety tests administered; and include the arrest of the driver for the DUI violation and show the driver being advised of their Miranda rights.” Likewise – a video recording of the complete breathalyzer testing procedure must also be provided (see full text of SC Code Section 56-5-2953 link below).Read More

In 2009 the legislature also dramatically increased and stiffened penalties in most DUI cases. For instance – a driver convicted of DUI in South Carolina with a breathalyzer reading of .16 or higher is subject to ninety (90) days in jail. Recent court decisions have mandated that law enforcement simply follow the law when making DUI/drunk driving cases – and that the dash cam and breathalyzer videos must comply with the law currently in place. Our courts have developed a harsh remedy for non-compliance with the video recording requirements – potential dismissal of the DUI charge.

Quite simply – the law is in place and the stakes are high – so dismissal must be the only and appropriate remedy for police officers not following the law with video recording.

Yesterday in Columbia, South Carolina, some members of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, prosecutors and victim advocates from across South Carolina met on the statehouse grounds and called upon the South Carolina General Assembly to eliminate and cut back the video recording provisions of the state’s DUI laws that I noted above. During the media conference, officials presented four videos that showed DUI suspects where the videos did not meet the requirements of our law – and the cases were dismissed.

Legislation has been introduced in both the South Carolina House and Senate that would prevent a DUI case from being dismissed if a problem exists in the video recording of the initial stop.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant and MADD state director Steven Burritt were among those who addressed the media requesting that our legislature cut back on the current video recording requirements in DUI cases.

I am not one of those voices, and I will continue to appear at legislative subcommittee hearings to fight any attempts to scale back on our videotape law in DUI cases. I have done so many times in the past – and will do so again this year. It is only common sense that if field sobriety tests are going to be used to gain a conviction in court – that they be completely viewable to a jury. It is critical that this fair and well thought out law passed in 2009 requiring video recording in DUI cases be kept completely intact. To cut back on our video law would take us back to the days of when police officers could fabricate how a driver performed on certain field tests in front of a jury. The mandated video recording evidence should – and does – speak for itself in a jury trial for DUI. Let’s hope that any changes to our DUI law eliminating or cutting back on video recording do not take place.

Greenville, South Carolina DUI Attorney Steve Sumner primarily handles misdemeanor and felony DUI/drunk driving cases. Steve is a former DUI prosecutor and has been in private practice since 1994. Steve has been recognized as a South Carolina Super Lawyer® in the field of DUI defense since 2013. He is a member of the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers™ for criminal defense. He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense and has held a judicially endorsed AV-Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell® and a “Superb” (10.0 out 10.0) ranking with Avvo since 2011.

Link to The State article

Link to South Carolina Code Section 56-5-2953


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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