Tuesday, June 01, 2010

DUIs and politics

Over the past weekend, South Carolina law enforcement cracked down on driving under the influence. The weekend kicked off an effort by law enforcement to make the roads safer during the so called "100 deadly days of summer."

We at VUI are all for that crackdown and frankly say if you are drunk, don't drive. You are not important enough to risk peoples lives with your behavior.

Normally, there is a groundswell of support for law enforcement in getting drunk drivers off the road. However, lately, DUI arrests of ex politicians have some political factions in a fit. They are actually contending at the local gathering places and on website comment sections that law enforcement officers are targeting people for political reasons and giving their friends an undeserved break.

Frankly, some of those making such comments are really self important and they actually believe that a deputy sheriff or a state trooper actually knows who they are, knows their politics and is out to get them. It is hard to argue with people with such a delusional sense of self importance.

That said, there is a problem with the DUI system in South Carolina. South Carolina simply does not have the money to have BAC testing units in every patrol car. So, a police officer has to make a call once he gives the field sobriety test. Most of the time, the officer's call to make the arrest is the right one. Sometimes, the suspect blows well below the legal limit and is guilty of just being clumsy in a field test. Frankly, a good many of us would have a hard time passing it stone cold sober.

Such cases are not limited to politicians or police officers. Indeed, for every ex politician arrested for DUI who blew well below the legal limit, there are at least ten average citizens who dealt with the same situation. There is not a county in South Carolina in which something like that has not happened.

That is the DUI system in South Carolina. Police officers deal with limited resources, a complex DUI law, and frankly, do the best that they can to make sure some drunk guy does not hit you and your family on the roads. Sure, a police officer might make a mistake and arrest a sober person for DUI. That happens. But, it is a huge leap to go from contending the arresting officer made a bad call to contending the arresting officer was out to get someone.

We can blame the media for that leap. The media is quick to go into a frenzy about the arrest of a politician, police officer or celebrity for something like a DUI. But, when the suspect is cleared, the media is nowhere to be found. They are simply too lazy to do follow up stories clearing people who were arrested due to some police officer's bad call. There is no way that media types are going to dig and work and report about the system that police officers work under.

Most law enforcement officers do not care about this or that political point of view, especially on duty. They often do a thankless job, being on the front lines in dealing with people most of us hope we never have to deal with. Charging them with being motivated to score political points is insulting to the men and women who put on a uniform, strap on a firearm, and hold the line. Indeed, an outstanding criminal defense lawyer told me once that he had nothing but respect for law enforcement officers. He made them do their jobs with his courtroom tactics, but he never questioned their honor and their motivation.

For those of you who like to compare the local Sheriff to a Nazi and his officers as "jack booted thugs," because one of your buddies got locked up for DUI and blew below the legal limit, well, forgive VUI for not joining you in your indignation. While mistakes can and do happen, law enforcement officers do their best to hold the line. Besides, when a drunk driver hits your car, or someone is breaking in your home, and you dial 911, are you going to spew out your political remarks to the officer that shows up to render you assistance? Chances are you will want that "jack booted thug" to hold the line for you.


  1. AnonymousJune 01, 2010

    I know they picked you and your buddy Earl Capps up over the weekend.

  2. Law enforcement officers are people and have the same flaws we all do. It would be naive to think that some don't allow their better angels to drown out such demons, thus bringing personal feelings and ego into their jobs.

    Practicing in the field of criminal defense, at least in our neck of the woods, we think such activity is the exception rather than the rule.

    Having said that, the bigger issue in our eyes with DUI enforcement is incentivizing DUI arrests. More arrests, not convictions, is how cops get noticed. It's how they get invited to Sewell's every year for the big MADD banquet. It's how they get put on the DUI Task force team. For crying out loud, it's how they can win new vehicles for their agencies. As a practical matter,such promotion, awards and recognition is how you make rank and to think that doesn't change the way cops approach their jobs would be to apply different motivations to law enforcement than we apply to every other human. We all want to get ahead and will naturally seek out ways in which to do so.

    Roadside breath machines would not result in any better DUI cases. But that's neither here nor there. Law Enforcement doesn't want them. If they did, they could get them. There is always grant money out there for law enforcement agencies to get to.

    Most agencies in SC used such grants to get the majority of their video systems required by the 1998 DUI laws, in spite of the fact that those same laws provided a funding through fees and assessements by which to get the cameras. That is, those agencies that actually WANT to get the cameras the law requires. A lot of agencies have knowingly and wilfully put off installing these cameras for over a decade, even after DPS has sent out memos telling them, "Hey...we've filled everyone's orders. Anyone got any more?"

    So the idea that funding is keeping SC law enforcement from having the equipment to make better DUI cases is flawed. The truth is, law enforcement is often more concerned with getting cool new toys (helicopters, tanks, etc) than getting equipment that would allow them to make stronger DUI cases. Why? Because there is no incentive to make stronger cases. Only incentives to make the arrests. And they're doing that just fine.

  3. Randy ScottJune 01, 2010

    You'd better get my cousin up to get me out of jail. Dammit, he'd better get up. I gave him that magistrate job. He owes me.

    Then I will come and kick your ass. You and Earl Capps for all the trouble you caused me.

  4. AnonymousJune 03, 2010

    god damn it, McCarty was sober for the first time in a month

  5. I'm sorry--but there is definately a "connections" based component to
    SC DUI enforcement, or lack thereof. In February--a man that had just hit and killed a 15 year old girl in Columbia told the SCHP Troopers at the scene that he had taken drugs. He was speeding, and he admitted that he did not see her due to inattention. He called a high profile attorney in the area--at 7:30 or 8pm on a friday night, and spoke with said attorney. In a short time, the man was driving home, witnesses were let go without any information. The driver gave a brief written statement: I WAS DRIVING ALONG AND I DID NOT THE GIRL (exact quote from MAIT report)and the cover-up commenced. So, now the girls family is left with no justice, no answers and worst of all---no daughter. SC is so full of corruption and entrenched in the Good Ole Boy Network--no wonder the rest of the country thinks it is full of yokels and morons!!! If SC is a joke--Columbia is the punchline. There is no JUST
    ICE in this state unless you know someone!

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