DUI Arrest in Five Words: South Carolina Incident Report Draws Questions

Due process is a tried and true pillar of the American legal system. When police arrest U.S. citizens they are required to respect that individual’s constitutional rights. In addition, police have certain procedures in place in order to ensure that the individual arrested was given the rights that every U.S. citizen deserves, no matter what the situation.

Sparse DUI Incident Report

“Subject arrested for DUI refusal” was the entirety of the state trooper’s report for a recent DUI arrest in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The skimpy report differs widely from standard procedures used by police departments statewide. Usually the incident report will note how the suspect performed in the field sobriety tests, anything the suspect said to the officer and any other indications that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Post and Courier obtained a copy of the report through a Freedom of Information Act request. Upon the paper’s questioning of the report, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety noted that the report was not sufficient to provide evidence in court. Rather, he said the troopers provide a separate written statement for the case file.

The Post and Courier noted that the South Carolina Highway Patrol was consistently providing less information in its reports than municipal police departments, and that the Highway Patrol had a “history of putting up roadblocks to deny public access to arrest documents.”

Proper Procedures

Before an officer pulls over a driver on suspicion of drunk driving, he or she must have probable cause to pull the driver over. Probable cause would include erratic driving, traffic violations or anything that gives the officer a reasonable suspicion the driver is under the influence of alcohol.

South Carolina has very specific procedures that are required for DUI investigations. Once the officer pulls a driver over, he or she usually gives the driver certain tests to determine if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These tests generally include walking in a straight line heel-to-toe and then returning, lifting one leg six inches off the ground for 30 seconds, and testing the driver’s Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, which is an involuntary jerking of the eye that is more pronounced when impaired people track an object such as a small flashlight. These field sobriety tests must be videotaped in their entirety.

Finally, if the officer does arrest the driver, the officer must give full Miranda warnings, which must be shown on video tape. The Miranda warnings must include the right to remain silent, the right to counsel before and during any questioning, and the right to have counsel appointed without cost prior to any questioning if so desired.

Contact an Attorney

DUI cases are very complex and involve multiple issues of law, fact and science. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney who can ensure that law enforcement authorities obeyed all proper procedures and did not violate and of your constitutional rights.