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Drunk driving laws still unclear in South Carolina

Changes in South Carolina drunk driving laws may have removed some limiting requirements, but the alterations are unlikely to help officials attempting to secure DUI convictions. The state Supreme Court decided on May 29 that officers are not required to video DUI suspects after they refuse to take a breath test.

Implications of this ruling remain unclear because of an unusual step taken by Supreme Court justices. They chose to rule in relation to a 2006 drunk driving law instead of considering the amended 2008 version. As a result, the videotaping requirement is likely to end up back in the lower courts if the decision is challenged.

Criminal defense attorneys argue that the videotaping requirement remains valid according to the 2008 provisions, but the decision has left some criminal matters without an obvious conclusion. Judges could conceivably make different decisions about the widespread rule depending on personal preference and regional practice.

The May ruling comes after a decision about two drunk driving arrests that occurred before the implementation of the 2008 regulations.

Prosecutors have argued that the video recording provision has led to an inordinate number of dismissed or reduced DUI charges, largely because suspects must be taped during a 20-minute period before a breathalyzer is given. Officers often shut off the camera as soon as a breath test is refused. Scores of cases have been dismissed because of this practice; officers are mandated to tape the suspect for 20 minutes even if they refuse to take the breath tests.

As a result, one important defense tactic has been protected through the court's ruling. Even though prosecutors had tried to change the law to close this so-called "loophole," defense attorneys will still be permitted to hold officers accountable for potentially violating the video recording mandate.

If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI, consider seeking the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. These professionals can help you learn about important strategies that could reduce or even lead to the dismissal of the charges filed against you.

Source:  www.myrtlebeachonline.com, "Drunken driving laws still murky despite S.C. Supreme Court's latest ruling" David Wren, May. 29, 2013

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