S.C. Supreme Court Revisits DUI Videotape Requirements for the HGN Field Sobriety Test

//S.C. Supreme Court Revisits DUI Videotape Requirements for the HGN Field Sobriety Test
  • DUI Field Sobriety Video DUI Lawyer Rock Hill

South Carolina Supreme Court Affirms that Motorist’s Head Must be Videotaped During DUI Field Sobriety Test But Adds a New Twist

In a previous DUI post about State v. Gordon, 408 S.C. 536 (2014), I discussed how the South Carolina Court of Appeals followed previous precedent in strictly interpreting the DUI videotaping statutes. In Gordon, the Court of Appeals reviewed whether a person having his eyes checked during the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) field sobriety test must have his head recorded on the DUI field videotape during the test. The Court of Appeals ultimately required strict compliance with the videotape provision and determined that a person’s head must be visible during the test or the DUI case must be dismissed.

In taking this case up, the South Carolina Supreme Court weighed in on the videotape requirements in a DUI case. While the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that a person’s head must be recorded during the HGN field sobriety test, the Court declined to make a more definitive statement of what constitutes “recording the head” during this eye specific test. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact an experienced Rock Hill DUI lawyer, trained in DWI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at Pisarik Law Firm to discuss your DUI videotape. Initial consultations to discuss your DUI defense with a Rock Hill DUI lawyer are free of charge. 803-415-2733.


State v. Gordon, Appellate Case No: 2014-001337 (2015)


Whether a DUI field videotape must show a person’s head during the HGN field sobriety test and whether the videotape in this particular case did in fact record the person’s head.


Visit this previous DUI blog post for a discussion about the facts of this case.


The Supreme Court ultimately decided this case on a factual basis by using still shot photos of the video to find that Gordon’s head was visible during the HGN eye test. Thus the Court found that this DUI field videotape did comply with the requirements of SC Code Section 56-5-2953. This factual finding differed from that of the Court of Appeals which found that Gordon’s head was not sufficiently visible on the DUI videotape to comply with the statute.

Despite using a factual finding to ultimately decide this case, the Court did specifically affirm the Court of Appeals conclusion that the DUI videotape statute requires that the motorist’s head be recorded on the DUI videotape during the HGN test. However, the Court did not give further explanation about what constitutes “recording the head” during the HGN test.

Perhaps, the most interesting and important aspect of this case comes from language in the opinion that appears to set up a new two prong test for analyzing DUI videotape issues. The first prong appears to be an analysis of whether the field sobriety test is completely videotaped. If it is not, then a per se dismissal of the DUI case as discussed in Town of Mount Pleasant v. Roberts and City of Rock Hill v. Suchenski is the appropriate remedy. However, unlike previous cases, the Court appears to establish a second prong where the Court must determine if videotapes that completely record field sobriety tests should still be excluded as evidence because of the poor quality of the recording. The Court must determine if the quality of the video is so poor as to make its admission more prejudicial than probative. To determine whether your DUI videotape complies with the DUI videotaping statutes, contact an experienced DUI lawyer who represents people in York, Chester, Lancaster, and surrounding counties in South Carolina.

Contact DUI Lawyer Craig Pisarik in Rock Hill to review your DUI videotape and discuss your DUI defense.

The law in DUI cases can be vast and complicated. Contact an experienced DUI lawyer, trained in DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, to discuss your DUI defense today. Just because you have been charged with DUI or DUAC does not mean that you are guilty of DUI or DUAC. A DUI lawyer at Pisarik Law Firm will be able to review your DUI videotape and determine whether it complies with the DUI videotaping laws. Call for a free consultation today. 803-415-2733