For years South Carolina has been recognized as a leader with its DUI video recording law. South Carolina continues to show the nation that we are willing to lead the way and pave the path in a critical area of our criminal justice system: video recording laws for police.
Recent incidents involving law enforcement shootings in Ferguson, MO and Columbia, SC illustrate how critical mandatory video recording laws are, and how South Carolina is a leader in this area.
The video recording of Michael Brown being shot by a Ferguson, MO police officer lead to terrible civil unrest and military style police patrolling the streets of that city. Protest marches occurred daily. A mandatory curfew had to be put into effect. Critically, it was a video recording made by bystanders of the event that contradicted the police version. In other words it was citizens acting on their own that captured this important video footage that led to the public outrage that engulfed Ferguson for several weeks. It was not a video recording from a police officer’s camera.
By contrast, the police shooting of Levar Jones in Columbia was recorded both visually and audibly by the trooper’s statutorily mandated in-car video recording system. As a result, we know that then-Trooper Sean Groubert’s claim that he began firing only after ones came back out of his vehicle with something in his hand was not true. What could have been a swearing contest between a white trooper and an African-American man, sparking the same type of unrest as in Ferguson became an example of the system addressing misconduct by the trooper both administratively and criminally.
As a Greenville, South Carolina DUI defense attorney I played a significant role in helping to author South Carolina’s videotaping law in DUI/drunk driving cases. In the mid to late 90′s I was asked to be a part of the committee that drafted SC Code Section 56-5-2953 for the judiciary committee. I am proud to say that it was the first mandatory videotaping law for DUI/drunk driving cases in the United States. Briefly – the statute requires that the arrest site recording of the suspect begin no later than the activation of the blue lights on the police vehicle and that it include the administration of any field sobriety tests given in the investigation. While other states have followed suit and adopted their own video recording laws, South Carolina’s still remains one of the strongest for the benefit of the accused.
Our appellate courts have consistently held that the failure to strictly comply with our video recording law demands that the DUI/drunk driving charge be dismissed.
I will once again fight this upcoming year in Columbia to encourage and support our general assembly to maintain the requirements of our video recording law in DUI cases. However, every year, law enforcement groups, prosecutors and MADD lobby our legislature to change the law to make it easier to convict people accused of DUI. The goal of preserving material evidence so that the accused can receive a fair trial is worth fighting for every year.
Greenville, South Carolina DUI Attorney Steve Sumner primarily handles misdemeanor and felony DUI/drunk driving cases. Steve is a former DUI prosecutor and has been in private practice since 1994. Steve has been recognized as a South Carolina Super Lawyer® in the field of DUI defense since 2013. He is a member of the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers™ for criminal defense. He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense and has held a judicially endorsed AV-Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell® and a “Superb” (10.0 out 10.0) ranking with Avvo since 2011.