In South Carolina, a DUI conviction rests upon video evidence

South Carolina requires DUI arrests to be videotaped, which can make prosecutions difficult.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), South Carolina has some of the most difficult to prosecute drunk driving laws in the country. As The State reports, the anti-drunk driving group recently conducted a study showing that the conviction rate for driving under the influence (DUI) in South Carolina is much lower than the national average. However, while MADD complains that that the low conviction rate is a sign that the state's DUI laws need to be changed, critics point out that there are serious problems with the study.

Low conviction rate

The report focused almost entirely on the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Kershaw and Richland counties, and the 13th Judicial Circuit, which includes Greenville and Pickens counties. Trained volunteers monitored 832 court cases from January 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016. The report claimed that many DUI charges get reduced to reckless driving charges and that the overall conviction rate for DUI is well below the national rate.

As the Greenville News reports, the MADD report claims that just 48 percent of DUI court cases in the 13th Circuit end with the accused being found guilty, whereas the national average is 68 percent. The group claims that South Carolina law requiring that officers videotape a DUI arrest, from when a vehicle has been pulled over to when the suspect is placed into the police car, makes prosecuting DUI overly burdensome in the state. The group is petitioning to have the law changed to make dash cam video less of a requirement.

Problems with the report

However, while the MADD report has gotten a lot of media coverage, critics, including prosecutors, have pointed out problems with the findings. Solicitor Walt Wilkins of the 13 Judicial Circuit, for example, points out that MADD only looked at magistrate courts and not city courts or General Session DUI.

Furthermore, DUI cases in the 5th Judicial Circuit actually had a high conviction rate, with 88 percent of the cases reviewed ending in a guilty DUI conviction with the remaining 12 percent ending in a reckless driving conviction. Solicitor Wilkins also points out that there are problems comparing the 5th and 13th Circuits since the 5th Circuit has a dedicated DUI court that makes it easier for defendants to have their cases dismissed and in the 5th Circuit DUI cases are prosecuted by the arresting officer (whereas in the 13th Circuit they are prosecuted by an attorney with the Solicitor's Office).

Criminal defense help

Many people who have been charged with DUI often assume that there are few options for fighting against those charges. However, as the above article shows, police and prosecutors in South Carolina must meet a high standard in order to prove their case. That's why anybody charged with DUI should get in touch w ith a criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney can help defendants fight the charges against them and help them defend their rights and freedoms.