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DUI charge dismissed, where officer failed to videotape Miranda warnings

The South Carolina Court of Appeals case of State v. Henkel provides an example in which a DUI charge was dismissed because the officer did not follow the proper procedures.
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    January 18, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- DUI charge dismissed, where officer failed to videotape Miranda warnings

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An officer arresting a driver for a drunk driving charge has certain procedures that he or she must follow. One such requirement under South Carolina law is that certain aspects of the incident must be videotaped by the officer.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals case of State v. Henkel provides an example in which a DUI charge was dismissed because the officer did not follow the proper procedures.

Case background

Police received a report of a truck allegedly driving erratically on I-385 in Greenville County at night. The truck hit a bridge and overturned into a ditch, but the unidentified driver left the scene. Several hours later, an officer responded to a call indicating the driver of the truck had possibly been located.

After pulling up ahead of a line of emergency vehicles, the officer found the suspect being examined by paramedics in an ambulance behind his patrol car. The officer entered the ambulance and claimed he smelled alcohol. He read the suspect his Miranda rights and performed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test inside the ambulance. After the test, the officer believed the suspect was under the influence and moved him from inside the ambulance to the side of his patrol car. There, the officer had the suspect recite his ABCs, and claimed the suspect failed the test. The suspect was arrested and placed in the officer's car, and once inside, the officer turned the dashboard video camera in his car to face the suspect and read him his Miranda rights again.

Charges dismissed due to procedural errors

The officer testified he had activated the patrol car's video camera and his microphone by the remote control on his belt. The record indicated this happened after the officer initially read the defendant his Miranda rights in the ambulance. The videotapes in evidence did not include any video or audio of the initial Miranda warning.

The jury found the suspect guilty of DUI, and the suspect appealed, arguing, among other grounds, that the initial Miranda warning was not videotaped. The South Carolina Court of Appeals carefully reviewed the language of the statute applicable to this case and dismissed the charges, finding that the arresting officer had not followed proper procedures. However, the South Carolina law regarding videotaping of DUI arrests has been revised since the events of this case took place, and the statute no longer requires that the initial Miranda warning occur prior to the administration of a field sobriety test.

South Carolina law on videotaping of DUI arrests

South Carolina law, which has been revised since the time of the arrest at issue in the case described above, sets forth strict procedural requirements that police officers must follow when conducting a DUI arrest. Failure to comply with the videotaping statute can result in the related DUI charges being dismissed.

Under South Carolina's DUI arrest law, a person suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol must have his or her conduct videotaped at the site of the incident, and also must have his or her breath test videotaped.

The video recording taken at the incident site must meet the following requirements:
-It must begin no later than the time at which the officer's blue lights are activated.
-It must include any field sobriety tests that are conducted.
-It must include the arrest or probable cause determination of a person suspected of driving under the influence.
-It must show the arrested individual being informed of his or her Miranda rights.

Additional requirements apply to the video recording of the breath test site, including a provision stating that the entire test must be videotaped and that the driver must be informed of his or her right to refuse the test.

Navigating the process

If you have been arrested for DUI and you believe the officers involved did not follow the proper procedures, the advice of an attorney will prove invaluable. Even if procedures were followed, an arrest on suspicion of DUI may not necessarily result in a conviction. You should hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer who can help you navigate the process and work for a favorable result on your behalf.

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