July 11, 2011

South Carolina Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Diedreich von Lehe's Client, Busts Town of Mt. Pleasant for Ignoring Cruiser Video Camera Law

This afternoon, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of attorney Diedreich von Lehe's client and held for the first time that a municipality's "prolonged failure to equip its patrol vehicles with video cameras defeats the intent of the Legislature" to record the events surrounding an accused's arrest for DUI pursuant to S.C. Code Section 56-5-2953.  The decision affirms a lower court's order reversing the accused's conviction and dismissing her charge.

In a unanimous and pointed opinion, the Court found in The Town of Mt. Pleasant v. Treva Roberts that the Town had undertaken "obvious intentional efforts to avoid complying with" the mandatory videotaping law which came into effect more than a decade ago.  The Court also wrote that "we find the Town's explanation [as to why it did not have cameras] is disingenuous"  and characterized "the Town's interpretation of [the law]" as "nonsensical as the requirements of section 56-5-2953 could be circumvented in perpetuity if a law enforcement agency purposefully does not request additional video cameras.”  The Court concluded that "the Town should not be able to avoid its statutorily-created obligation to produce a videotape" of an accused's arrest for DUI and held that her conviction and charge properly were reversed and dismissed by Circuit Court Judge J.C. Nicholson, Jr.

Von Lehe hailed the Court's decision saying that, "Every citizen in South Carolina is a winner in this case.  The Supreme Court's decision affirms a basic precept of our democracy and system of justice that even the Government must comply with the law."