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“Spartanburg Circuit Judge Agrees with Dismissal of DUI Charge”

CASE NAME: South Carolina v Taylor; Docket Number 2016-CP-42-2066; October 20, 2016

FACTS:

On June 11, 2015, at approximately 4:35 a.m., Lance Corporal R.B. Thornton of the South Carolina Highway Patrol responded to a call regarding a vehicle in a ditch on Nahant Street off of Hayne Street in Spartanburg County. Upon arriving on scene, Lance Corporal Thornton was met by Deputy Woodward of the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, who had placed a call to the South Carolina Highway Patrol for assistance after locating the vehicle. Lance Corporal Thornton approached Defendant while he was seated in the car and detected an odor of alcohol along with slurred speech coming from Defendant. Lance Corporal then asked Defendant to step out of his vehicle. The Defendant was taken in front of Lance Corporal Thornton’s vehicle for field sobriety testing. The video recording at the incident site shows Lance Corporal Thornton offer Defendant a field sobriety test where he is asked to recite the alphabet. Upon completion of the field sobriety testing, Defendant was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and Open Container. Lance Corporal Thornton then chose to move Defendant and place him in the front of his patrol car. After moving Defendant, Lance Corporal Thornton advised Defendant of his Miranda rights while Defendant was not visible on the patrol car’s in-car video camera or any other video recording device. The advisement of Miranda rights by Lance Corporal Thornton is audible on the recording, but neither Lance Corporal Thornton nor Defendant are visible on the video recording during the advisement of Miranda rights.

ISSUE:

Did the arresting officer comply with the statutory requirements from the South Carolina Code with proper video recording of the defendant’s advisement of their Miranda rights?

HOLDING:

No. In the video recording of Defendant in this matter, the arresting officer’s in-car camera is facing forward when Defendant is advised of his Miranda rights while seated in the passenger seat of Lance Corporal Thornton’s patrol car, such that one cannot see Lance Corporal Thornton advising Defendant of his Miranda rights nor any acknowledgment of the same by Defendant, as required by statute.

That pursuant to the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-2953(A), as amended in 2008, a person charged with Driving Under the Influence must have their conduct video recorded at the incident site as follows:

(A) A person who violates Section 56-5-2930, 56-5-2933, or 56-5-2945 must have his conduct at the incident site and the breath test site video recorded.

(1)(a) The video recording at the incident site must:

(i) not begin later than the activation of the officer’s blue lights;

(ii) include any field sobriety tests administered; and

(iii) include the arrest of a person for a violation of Section 56-5-2930 or Section 56-5-2933, or a probable cause determination in that the person violated Section 56-5-2945, and show the person being advised of his Miranda rights (emphasis added).

That the Magistrate issued a thorough order addressing the issues presented to him, and the reasons behind his decision. Upon appeal, the Court finds no error in the Magistrate’s reasoning or with his decision. When the statute was amended, the legislature made clear their intention what needed to be seen on the video. While the State argues on appeal the Defendant can show no prejudice, prejudice does not have to be shown to establish a violation of the statute. With the legislature’s clear mandate and no exception to the mandate being argued above, the Magistrate was correct in his ruling. Nevertheless, if prejudice was an element that a Defendant needed to establish, when the video requirement is violated, the prejudice is that the conduct mandated to be recorded was not recorded for evidentiary purposes.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court denies the State’s Appeal in this matter and reaffirms the dismissal of the DUI charge against the defendant.

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