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South Carolina Criminal Law Blog

Drug interdiction leads to traffic citations, vehicle searches

The War on Drugs in South Carolina has led to the arrest of several defendants after a drug interdiction effort along two local thoroughfares. Officials say the interdiction efforts focused on Interstate 85 and Highway 11. During that April 3 event, seven felony arrests were made, 16 vehicles were searched, and 64 traffic citations and warnings were issued to motorists in Oconee County.

This particular interdiction effort shows the consequences that can arise for South Carolina drivers who are pulled over for even a simple traffic stop. In several cases, K-9 units were used to conduct free-air sniffs, which allowed them to identify potential illegal substances in defendants' vehicles. Narcotics agents facilitated these searches as the drivers were pulled over for simple violations. In one case, a motorist was found to be driving without proof of registration or insurance; a drug search was conducted after a needle was found in his pocket.

Son of drunk driving law advocate arrested for DUI

The son of a South Carolina politician who was a staunch advocate of recently passed DUI legislation has been arrested for drunk driving himself. That man, age 25, was pulled over for speeding when officers noticed a strong smell of alcohol. The defendant was charged with first offense DUI with a blood alcohol content level of less than 0.08 percent, according to official reports.

Authorities say that the man's father has been a staunch supporter of "Emma's Law," a new mandate that increases penalties for first-offense drunk drivers, among others. The new mandate will require ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders. Those devices will also be required for certain first-time offenders, according to news reports.

Passenger injured, man facing drug crime after police chase

Physicians who were treating a 28-year-old woman who was injured in a car accident after a police chase reportedly found a significant amount of methamphetamine inside her body. That meth was not inside her system; rather, 19 grams of the drug were reportedly stored inside one of the victim's body cavities. That woman has a criminal history that includes drug crimes, including possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Authorities report that the woman was a passenger in a vehicle that was fleeing police. That chase began in Cleveland County, South Carolina, after undercover officers had purchased meth from the 28-year-old male driver of that vehicle. Deputies attempted to arrest the man, but he raced off with the woman still in the vehicle. Official reports show that deputies had laid spikes to damage the driver's tires, which would cause the vehicle to stop.

South Carolina teen accused of underage drinking in fatal wreck

A 65-year-old woman who was involved in a head-on collision allegedly caused by a drunk driver in South Carolina has died from her injuries. The woman and her 43-year-old daughter were reportedly involved in the collision on Highway 110 on March 22, according to official reports. A 44-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter are still receiving intensive treatment at a local hospital. The defendant, age 19, is facing allegations of underage drinking and driving for his role in the wreck.

Authorities say that officers saw the defendant driving by at a high rate of speed just seconds before the accident occurred. That driver allegedly passed a deputy, who captured the encounter on a dash camera. The driver is reportedly seen crossing the solid yellow centerline on the highway; the deputy arrived at the crash scene less than a minute later.

South Carolina man accused of DUI deaths at festival

A driver who plowed into a crowd of concertgoers at a famous music festival has been identified as a native of South Carolina. The man, who currently lives in Killeen, Texas, originally hails from Orangeburg. That 21-year-old defendant is accused of drunk driving after reportedly plowing into a crowd of revelers at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin.

Authorities report that a third person has died in connection with the wreck, which occurred on March 13. Two people, ages 27 and 35, were declared dead at the scene of the accident, and the most recent 26-year-old victim died after battling serious injuries for several days. More than 20 other people suffered injury after the driver allegedly drove onto a street crowded with pedestrians.

New bill takes aim at South Carolina repeat DUI offenders

How much do you think a DUI death costs the state of South Carolina? About $10,000? What about $100,000? Well, if you guessed nearly $5 million, you might be right. A recent study showed that a single DUI fatality can cost millions of dollars; when you consider the frequency of drunk driving crashes, the amount of money spent on these cases easily becomes staggering.

That is just one reason that a South Carolina dad says he is fighting for a bill named after his daughter, Emma, who died in 2012 at age 6. The child perished in a New Year's Day crash, and the alleged drunk driver is now facing a nine-year prison term. A new measure up for consideration in the statehouse would probably save lives and money, and it would stiffen penalties for those facing drunk driving charges.

South Carolina could allow citation for texting and driving

Pending legislation in South Carolina could finally lead to the state adopting provisions against texting while driving. Currently, drivers are not subject to traffic citations if they are found texting behind the wheel. The new bill would include fines of up to $300 for drivers who are found texting behind the wheel. Two points could also be assessed against a driver's license after a texting traffic citation. Violators would be able to remove the fine if they submit to a distracted-driving course.

Representatives in state government say they find that many residents do not even realize that texting behind the wheel is not yet illegal. In fact, South Carolina is the only state in the region that has not adopted a texting ban. Only a few remaining states -- such as Arizona and Texas -- still permit texting and driving for most vehicle operators.

Grandmother, grandson arrested for drug crimes, other charges

A South Carolina woman and her adult grandson are facing criminal charges after reportedly being found with marijuana and counterfeit goods on Feb. 17. The pair will face drug-related charges for allegedly possessing 4.6 ounces of pot. In addition, the two defendants are accused of participating in a counterfeit clothing sales operation. They were reportedly found with several bags of brand-name merchandise that are likely knock-offs of the original design. Those brand names included Polo and Nike.

Authorities report that a police officer pulled the pair over on Interstate 85 because he suspected that her passenger windows were tinted darker than regulations allow. When the officer got out of the vehicle, he said he smelled marijuana wafting from the vicinity. The two defendants reportedly denied having any pot in the vehicle, but the grandson was allegedly seen dropping a small bag on the side of the road. Testing identified the substance in that bag as marijuana. Further, a significant amount of marijuana was allegedly found inside a shoebox that was included with the counterfeit merchandise.

South Carolina drivers pay big for out-of-state traffic citations

South Carolina drivers be warned: That out-of-state traffic ticket could come back to haunt you. Although many drivers tend to ignore traffic citations they receive while traveling in another state, those violations could turn into major problems in a hurry if they are not quickly resolved. If you think another state is unlikely to track you down just to have you pay a speeding ticket or other citation, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Decades ago, South Carolina joined a group of other states that banded together to promote traffic citation accountability. Those states agreed to cooperate in an effort to prevent errant drivers from returning home without paying their out-of-state violations. A set of communication protocols allows home states to punish drivers for their out-of-state tickets.

South Carolina director resigns after drunk driving arrest

A South Carolina official resigned just hours after being stopped by state troopers on Jan. 31 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The man, who had been the director of the Department of Transportation, reportedly registered a blood alcohol content of 0.20 percent, which is higher than the legal limit. Within hours after the drunk driving arrest, the man had submitted his resignation to the governor.

Authorities report that the man was respectful and composed throughout the process. Officers who stopped the man said that he was driving erratically, crossing over lane lines several times. They also said the man smelled of alcohol. A dashboard camera shows one of the officers returning to his vehicle to notify his supervisor about the arrest of a "political figure."

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