DUI law requiring video documentation leads to dismissed cases

DUI law requiring video documentation leads to dismissed cases

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Prosecuting someone for driving under the influence in South Carolina isn't as simple as looking at the results of a blood alcohol content test.

When an officer stops someone on suspicion of DUI, state law requires officers to use a video camera to record everything from the reading of the Miranda Rights to the field sobriety tests. If there are any issues with the video, such as audio failure or something not being completely visible, the case can get thrown out.

"You had fire trucks there and EMS, just lights everywhere and the case got dismissed because you could not see the eye test," said Manuela Clayton, assistant solicitor for the 15th Judicial Circuit.

Out of about 1,200 DUI cases that came through the 15th Judicial Circuit in 2014, 15 made it to jury trial. Some of the defendants pleaded guilty before going to trial, but Clayton said the majority of DUI cases were dismissed.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving along with law enforcement officers and prosecutors are talking with the South Carolina General Assembly to draft legislation that would prevent cases from being dismissed due to minor video technicalities.

"It would be nicer to have a case where the roadside is suppressed and we may still have the evidence to go forward to trial with a DUI based on the breath test results," Clayton said.

Tyler Thigpen's DUI charge was dismissed because there was no audio in the recording, according to his lawyer.

DUI Defense Attorney Scott Joye said the blood alcohol content tests aren't completely reliable, so the law requiring the video is in place for a reason, to protect both drivers and law enforcement officers by adding an extra piece of evidence.

"The consequences of a DUI arrest have become greater and greater," Joye said. "Therefore, the standards by which we convict someone of a DUI should become greater and greater."

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