Could Proposed Changes to South Carolina DUI Law Jeopardize Your Rights?

In South Carolina, police officers are required to record all DUI arrests via dash-cam, including proof of on-site sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests. If the video equipment malfunctions, the case might be dismissed.116921095

Lawmakers now are considering altering the South Carolina DUI law, which may increase the likelihood of a drunk driving conviction with insufficient video evidence or a lack of video evidence altogether.

As an experienced DUI defense lawyer knows, police offers are required to follow certain standards when assessing a driver's sobriety and making arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol. A failure to follow these standards at the scene of an arrest can lead to a wrongful arrest or a case being thrown out in court due to a lack of evidence.

How South Carolina DUI Law Changes Will Affect Drunk Driving Cases

According to GoUpstate, South Carolina prosecutors want to amend state law to de-emphasize dash-cam video recordings in drunk driving cases. The prosecutors say too many cases are dismissed due to imperfect recordings.

South Carolina law has required videotaping of drunk driving arrests since 1998. The law states that dash-cam recordings must begin as soon as officers activate their blue lights and capture important evidence that includes on-site sobriety tests and breath tests given to suspected DUI drivers.

Supporters of the bill argue these laws are too lenient, citing cases thrown out due to malfunctioning audio, a suspect's feet not being visible for the straight-line walking test and after suspects temporarily walked out of the view of a police officer's dash-cam as the arresting officer repositioned his vehicle to get a better camera angle.

The GoUpstate article also reports that while prosecutors have argued that drunken driving is "almost legal" across the state, no statewide agency keeps track of how often DUI cases are dismissed or pleaded down for lesser charges due to video technicalities.

Furthermore, accident statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that alcohol-related driving fatalities fell from 894 in 2009 to 767 in 2013.

Opponents: Adequate Training Essential for Police Officers

Opponents of the bill argue that adequate training - and not a lowering of conviction standards - may represent a middle ground between effectively enforcing South Carolina drunk driving laws and ensuring the legal rights of those arrested under suspicion of DUI are protected.

Many criminal defense attorneys agree alterations can be made to dash-cam video systems to allow officers to better document DUI arrests made across the state. One such alteration is providing police officers adequate training to change a camera's viewing field from a square to a rectangle to better capture the scene of an arrest.

Ultimately, video evidence represents the only opportunity a suspect may have to disprove an officer's allegations. Lowering the standards would only lower competence and compliance with the law.

Without checks and balances in place to protect a DUI arrest suspect's rights, the possibility exists for someone accused of drunk driving to be wrongly convicted or have their rights violated.

To schedule your free appointment, contact Matt Bodman, P.A. at 866-487-9077.  Serving Columbia, Anderson, SC, Rock Hill, SC, Sumter, SC, and Georgetown, SC, and surrounding areas. 

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