Are South Carolina’s DUI Laws Too Lenient?

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Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is taking aim at South Carolina DUI laws by arguing that they are too lenient and make it too hard to get a conviction in court. MADD argues that a law that requires that dashboard camera videos be a part of the evidence in DUI cases is resulting in more plea deals where defendants plead down to lesser charges.

South Carolina’s Dash-Cam Video Recording Statute

South Carolina’s dash-cam law can sometimes hamper the ability to convict someone who was driving under the influence. Enacted in 2008, the law basically says that a person accused of DUI must have their conduct recorded at both the incident site and breath test site. The law requires the video at the incident site to begin no later than the activation of the officer’s blue lights, and to include any field sobriety tests administered, as well as the person’s arrest and advisement of Miranda rights.  The result is that when the video has glitches, shadows, or if the camera captures something on audio only and the exchange takes place outside of the visual range, then it may be much more difficult to convict people of driving under the influence.  

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According to news accounts, counties like Berkeley County are arresting more people for reckless driving versus DUI because they don’t have the complete dash-cam footage. By charging them with reckless driving, they get a six-point violation on their license and a night in jail, which means they are at least off the street and no one gets injured or killed. Another reason they struggled to arrest people for DUI is that, as of December 2016, less than 15 percent of patrol vehicles had dash cams installed to begin with.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving  (MADD) Wants Reform for SC DUI Laws

MADD has been in the news recently as they continue to push for stricter laws to help reduce the number of deaths in South Carolina due to drunk drivers. They note that South Carolina is one of the worst states in the entire country for drunk driving deaths. Members are now sitting in state courtrooms to monitor DUI cases and their outcomes and to compile data to issue reports to support reform. MADD’s initial research tends to indicate many drunk drivers are getting off because the current DUI laws make it too hard to convict them.
Because so many drivers are pleading to lesser charges due to technicalities, like walking out of frame of the dash cam or the footage having minor static and being unusable pursuant to the statute, MADD is asking state leaders to amend the dash cam video recording law so that other evidence in DUI matters can be used, even when there is a problem with the video footage.  
They are also asking the state to engage in more aggressive prosecution of those charged with DUI, so that more drivers are held accountable for the appropriate charge and receive the appropriate penalties, and are not able to plead down to reckless driving charges. Their research shows that a first time DUI offender may have driven drunk up to 80 times before getting caught, making the need for reform that much more important.

How MADD Report Data Was Compiled

To generate the data, MADD relied on trained volunteers, focusing on Kershaw and Richland counties, along with the 13th Judicial Circuit of Greenville and Pickens counties. These are two of the three circuits in the state with the highest DUI-related fatality and injury collisions. They studied 832 cases from January 1, 2016, to September 30, 2016. This is phase one of a planned three-year study, which will allow them to also include data from the 379 cases that had started, but not reached conclusion, during the nine-month period included in the report.

South Carolina DUI Laws and Insurance Statutes to Remember

All states and the District of Columbia have DUI laws on the books making it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages. The legal limit is set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (“BAC”). The legal drinking age in all states and the District of Columbia is 21.
Some states have mandatory ignition interlock laws on the books as well. In South Carolina, only repeat and high BAC (.15 BAC or greater) impaired drivers are required to install an ignition interlock. Other offenders who are facing their first DUI have the option whether or not to use the ignition interlocks.
All motor vehicles must be insured in the State of South Carolina as well. When a driver’s license is issued or renewed, applicants must certify they have the required state coverage. Owners of motor vehicles must certify when they register the vehicle, as well as each year upon registering, that they have and will maintain the required liability insurance coverage as required by the state of South Carolina.
Mandatory liability limits are $25,000 for bodily injury to one person in any one accident, and $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people in any one accident. The DUI laws also mandate that every liability policy sold include coverage in the same amounts for injuries caused to the policy holder by uninsured motorists. Any accident that causes injury or death, or when property damage is in excess of $1,000, has to be reported and the deadline to report a crash is 15 days.
When it comes to civil matters, South Carolina follows what is called modified comparative negligence, which means a plaintiff isn’t barred from recovering damages in a lawsuit as long as their negligence wasn’t more than the defendant’s. Basically, as long as they are 50 percent at fault or less, they can recover some damages in an accident.

Should You Have Your Own Dash-Cam?

While the statute in South Carolina related to DUIs may hinder a criminal matter, some people have wondered if having their own dash-cams in their private vehicles might help a civil matter. With South Carolina giving them so much weight in criminal matters, having a dash cam in your own vehicle isn’t necessarily a bad idea.
A dash cam may be able provide a point of view of the accident that proves you aren’t at fault. There also may be an unintended side effect where drivers start driving more responsibly if they think others have dash cams and are recording their driving habits just before an accident occurs.

Contact a Greenville Personal Injury Attorney That Knows South Carolina DUI Laws

If you were injured by a drunk driver, even if they were not convicted of a DUI, then you have a civil cause of action and may be entitled to a substantial recovery. Contact the knowledgeable Greenville personal injury and accident attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the SC DUI laws.

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