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DUI Video Recordings Irk Prosecutors

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DUI video recordings during arrests have been mandatory in South Carolina since 1998. Every DUI arrest must be recorded from start to finish-including any breath test the motorist agrees to take. Apparently the law is hindering prosecution efforts, because two bills currently pending in the South Carolina legislature aim to lessen the importance of the video recordings.

In typical prosecutor fashion, Barry Barnette, the chief prosecutor for Spartanburg and Cherokee counties, says far too many cases are thrown out because the DUI video recording is "not perfect." (Read: the DUI video recording has so many problems that it cannot be used to validate the arrest.) Problems-which Barnette refers to as "technicalities," can range from malfunctioning audio to the suspect temporarily stumbling out of view. (Read: the officer positioned the motorist out of audio range or view of the camera.)

The proposal before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday specifies that a case can't be tossed simply because video equipment fails to capture field sobriety tests. Barnette prefers a House version, which ties automatic dismissal to a recording being intentionally damaged or missing. Not surprisingly, appearing in favor of weakening the law were members of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association, prosecutors and victim's advocates.

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