Cameras for recording DUI traffic stops must be maintained by police departments
The South Carolina Legislature has made it clear through law that DUI traffic stops must be video recorded. It is incumbent on police departments to maintain these video cameras in a working order. Call a Rock Hill DUI lawyer at Pisarik Law Firm to discuss your DUI defense. 803-415-2733
Whether the City of Greer made reasonable efforts to maintain a police car video camera where the City knew the video camera was malfunctioning ten days prior to a DUI stop but refused to pay for an on-site visit to repair it. Also, whether Officer Williams’ affidavit complied with SC Code Section 56-5-2953(B) by properly stating which reasonable efforts were made to maintain the video camera in an operable condition.
On February 25, 2011, Humble was pulled over by Officer Jim Williams and charged with DUI. No video recording was made of the DUI stop due to a malfunctioning police car camera. Officer Williams instead submitted an affidavit stating that, “[a]t the time of the defendant’s arrest, or probable cause determination, the video equipment in the vehicle I was operating was in an inoperable condition and reasonable efforts had been made to maintain the equipment in an operable condition.”
During testimony at the municipal court hearing, Officer Williams testified that, “the City [of Greer] occasionally has problems with the video recording equipment,” and explained that the protocol is to contact Digital Ally, a company that services the police car cameras. During the same hearing, Humble provided a City maintenance log dated ten days before Humble’s arrest that showed Officer Williams’ vehicle had been having persistent problems for over a year. The City decided not to have the video camera fixed because they did not wish pay for an on-site visit.
The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Circuit Court and reinstated the Municipal Court’s dismissal of Humble’s DUI charge. The Court of Appeals found, “that the City was generally aware of persistent problems in the equipment in Officer Williams’ patrol car for over a year, but the City knowingly allowed the defective equipment to be used in that patrol car.” SC Code 56-5-2953(B)(Supp. 2012) requires that the arresting officer state which reasonable efforts have been made to maintain the equipment in an operable condition. Here, the Court reasoned that the City’s knowledge that the video equipment was defective and their refusal to pay for it to be fixed did not amount to “reasonable efforts” to maintain the equipment in an operable condition. According to prior precedent, the remedy for a violation of SC Code 56-5-2953(B) is dismissal of the case.
The Court also found that Officer Williams’ affidavit was deficient on its face because it only generally stated that reasonable efforts were made to maintain the camera in an operable condition. The amended SC Code Section 56-5-2953(B)(Supp. 2012) in place at the time of this case, requires that an affidavit state “which” reasonable efforts were made to keep the camera in an operable condition. Because Officer Williams’ affidavit did not give specifics as to the reasonable efforts to maintain the camera in an operable condition, the Court found the affidavit violated Section 56-5-2953(B)(Supp. 2012).
This is not the first time that South Carolina Courts have discussed the importance of maintaining operable cameras in DUI cases. In Town of Mount Pleasant v. Roberts, 393 S.C. 332 (2011), the South Carolina Supreme Court found that an unexcused failure to video record a DUI stop, which resulted from a town’s failure to request additional video cameras from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) for installation in patrol cars, warranted dismissal of the case. City of Greer v. Humble, 402 S.C. at 617. These cases have highlighted how important it is to video record DUI stops in South Carolina. At this time, DUI cases are the only criminal context that the legislature has required video recording. Id.
A Rock Hill DUI attorney can help you determine if the DUI videotapes can aid your DUI defense
DUI videotapes may contain important information for your DUI defense. Before you decide to go it alone in this complex area of law, contact a Rock Hill DUI attorney at Pisarik Law Firm today. It won’t cost you anything to speak with a former DUI prosecutor and an experienced DUI lawyer about your DUI defense. 803-415-2733