DUI and video tape in South Carolina…a recent case.

Many people in South Carolina are unaware of a specific law here which requires that all DUI arrests be videotaped. According to § 56-5-2953(B) “Failure by the arresting officer to produce the video recording required by the section is not alone a ground for dismissal of any charge made pursuant to Section 56-5-2930, 56-5-2933, or 56-5-2945 if the arresting officer submits a sworn affidavit certifying that the video recording equipment at the time of arrest or probable cause determination, or video equipment at the breath test facility was in an inoperable condition, stating which reasonable efforts have been made to maintain the equipment in operable condition…”
This particular statute is immensely important in my view, for both defendants and police alike. This is because sometimes defendants are accused of crimes they have not committed, and a videotape is helpful in showing what the police saw at the time of arrest. It is also helpful for police, because they are occasionally accused of improper actions or faulty investigations, and the tape will show if they have acted properly.
A recent South Carolina Court of Appeals case is helpful to shine a light on this statute and how important it is in DUI law. In the case of City of Greer v. Shawn P. Humble, Appellate case No. 2012-207550, Humble was arrested for DUI in Greenville County. The arrest was not videotaped due to faulty equipment in the officer’s car. The officer submitted an affidavit as required certifying that the camera was inoperable and “reasonable efforts had been made to maintain the equipment in an operable condition.”
The way the statute read before it was revised, this affidavit would have sufficed. However, with the rewording of the statute, the state now requires officers to indicated which specific measures were taken to make the camera operable.
Cases have been tried which directly deal with this provision. Most notably, Town of Mt. Pleasant v. Roberts, 393 S.C. 332, 341, 713 S.E.2d 278, 282 (2011), stating “a law enforcement agency’s failure to comply with provisions of section 56-5-2953 is fatal to the prosecution of a DUI case” (at 346). The word “fatal” is as strong as it gets. The legislature meant for it to be that strong, to protect both defendants and police alike. A further discussion in Roberts explains: “despite the potential significance of videotaping oral confessions, the Legislature has not required the State to do so. By requiring a law enforcement agency to videotape a DUI arrest, the Legislature clearly intended strict compliance with the provisions of section 56-5-2953 and, in turn, promulgated a severe sanction for noncompliance.” (393 S.C. At 349, 713 S.E.2d at 286).
A DUI case is a serious matter, and may not seem like it, but it is an intricate case that can have long range repercussions on your ability to work or drive. At the very least, know that if you get pulled over, you are being recorded and should act accordingly. For more information on this or other criminal law topics, visit my website at www.jimcourtneylaw.com, or call 843-822-9800.

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