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Officers accused of favoritism at DUI stop

The mayor of a South Carolina town is defending the actions of law enforcement officers and legal professionals after a town councilman's son reportedly received preferential treatment after a traffic stop. The young man, who was pulled over while driving in Wagener on Oct. 10, should have faced a traffic citation and potentially other charges after admitting to the officer that he had multiple licenses from South Carolina.

Evidence of the alleged misdeed surfaced after a video tape of the traffic stop was reviewed. The officer who stopped the young man is accused of showing preferential treatment by not charging the driver with DUI or requiring him to perform field sobriety tests; testimony from the officer indicates that he thought the young driver was intoxicated at the time he was stopped. South Carolina law requires officers who suspect a driver is drunk to perform and videotape roadside sobriety tests.

Instead of giving the young driver a citation for carrying multiple licenses and driving drunk, the officer is accused of simply giving him a speeding ticket. This choice may have been influenced by the arrival of the councilman at the scene of the stop. Video evidence shows the officer acknowledging that the younger driver should not have been behind the wheel, saying instead that he intended to let the young man go because the situation was a "learning lesson."

Although officials in the town have systematically denied favoritism in this particular case, police in the area have come under fire for other questionable practices. In fact, the mayor says that officers have dumped out bags of marijuana and bottles of liquor during traffic stops, giving drivers warnings when they should have been reprimanded more severely. The officer in the most recent incident has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

All drivers deserve to be treated fairly under the law. Officers are not permitted to simply apply the law where they see fit, allowing drivers to avoid DUI charges because of their status in an area. Drivers who think they have been treated unfairly should consult a qualified criminal defense attorney to learn more about their options.

www.aikenstandard.com, "Wagener mayor: No favoritism for son of council member" Teddy Kulmala, Oct. 11, 2013

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