Proposed bill may make it harder to defend against DUI charges

Proposed amendment to video law would remove important defense option

South Carolina may soon make it more difficult to defend against a charge of DUI if a proposed bill is passed into law, according to the State. The proposal would make it harder to throw out a DUI case if video recording of the traffic stop resulting in the charge is incomplete in any way. Under current law, video recordings of DUI stops must be complete and clear or else they can result in the case being thrown out by a judge. The proposed changes would likely result in a greater reliance on field sobriety and breathalyzer tests when prosecutors seek a conviction.

Criticism of current law

The current law had been criticized by a NBC Charlotte report that claimed South Carolina's current DUI law was too narrowly worded. According to the report, a DUI case may be tossed if the video recording of the event does not capture the full traffic stop. Current law requires law enforcement to activate their dashboard video recorders from the time they turn on their blue lights until the accused person's Miranda Rights have been read to them.

Because the law requires the full roadside sobriety test to be recorded, any problems with that recording make a conviction less likely. For example, if a video does not capture a person's feet or face, does not capture audio, is recorded in the rain, or runs out of tape during the traffic stop, then the defense can argue that the recording is incomplete.

Proposed changes

The proposal to change the law, H.3441 and S.178 in the House and Senate respectively, would no longer require a video recording to be made of a roadside traffic stop. Instead, police would merely be required to make such recordings when possible, but a judge would no longer be able to throw out a DUI case based on an incomplete recording alone.

The change, if passed, would likely mean courts would rely more on field sobriety and breathalyzer tests when trying DUI cases. While proponents of the changes say it will help bring down DUI accident rates, it is important to note that field sobriety and breathalyzer tests themselves are not perfect. Such methods are prone to human and technical error and may be further influenced by other factors, such as medical conditions and even the weather. While the current DUI video law may seem too narrow to some, it is ultimately designed to ensure that accused people's rights are upheld during the criminal justice process.

Defending against traffic violations

Being charged and convicted of a DUI can result in serious restrictions on one's livelihood and may make it difficult to get back behind the wheel of a car. For many people, such restrictions, in addition to potential fines and jail time, can make it difficult to earn a living.

Defending against DUI and other traffic violations requires the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A qualified attorney can offer defendants peace of mind and invaluable legal support when faced with these difficult charges.