South Carolina prosecutors propose lower evidence standards in DUI cases

South Carolina prosecutors have called for changes to the standards that DUI arrest videos must meet, which could have adverse effects on drivers.

In 2013, over 18,000 people in South Carolina were arrested on suspicion of driving intoxicated, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. As most Columbia residents know, these people can only be convicted of driving under the influence if there is sufficient evidence to support the charges. Unfortunately, state lawmakers are now considering reducing the evidentiary requirements that authorities must satisfy to charge a person with DUI.

Arrest video requirements

The Herald reports that state prosecutors have called for changes to the criteria that DUI arrest videos must meet. Currently, authorities in South Carolina must take videos of every aspect of an arrest, including field sobriety and blood alcohol content tests. Failure to do so may provide grounds for the dismissal of the DUI charges. Prosecutors claim that too many cases are being dismissed on the basis of arrest videos being recorded imperfectly. For example, cases have been dismissed for the following reasons:

  • A suspected impaired driver stepped past the frame of the camera.
  • A driver's feet did not appear inside the camera frame during the heel-to-toe walk.
  • The audio component of the recording cut out.

Earlier this year, prosecutors sought to amend state laws so that video flaws could not serve as the basis for the dismissal of DUI charges. According to The Post and Courier, under this proposed amendment, incomplete videos would not be admissible as evidence. However, prosecutors would be able to consider other evidence from the arrest.

This proposal wasn't successful, according to The Herald; a Senate subcommittee failed to take action on the measure. However, prosecutors could push for similar changes again in the future.

Ramifications for the accused

Unfortunately, allowing DUI charges to proceed without the inclusion of arrest video evidence could leave drivers exposed to wrongful charges. WMBF News notes that various forms of DUI arrest evidence, including sobriety tests, aren't always reliable. Arrest videos benefit drivers by providing an additional source of evidence. Troublingly, flawed videos that fail to capture every part of the arrest may miss mistakes or misconduct on the part of authorities.

The potential for inappropriate charges is troubling, given the steep consequences that can follow DUI convictions. In South Carolina, the sanctions for a first-time conviction include fines up to $400, imprisonment up to 30 days and six months of license suspension, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. People who have already been convicted of DUI at least once may face even more severe penalties.

Addressing charges of DUI

This proposal, along with its potential effects on drivers, calls attention to the important role evidence plays in South Carolina DUI cases. It's critical for all evidence to be assessed during each case, which is one reason that people accused of DUI can benefit from consulting with an attorney. A DUI attorney may be able to use the available evidence to help a person challenge the charges or pursue a more reasonable outcome.