MADD’s Court Monitoring Program enlists court monitors to observe and document what happens in the courtroom during impaired driving case proceedings. The program was created to ensure that impaired driving offenders are prosecuted and justice is achieved. Court monitoring is a tool proven to affect the adjudication process and is recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as an effective countermeasure to reduce impaired driving 1 . Court monitors on the local scale can
impact the handling of impaired driving cases by their mere presence in the court room. Court monitoring is intended to enhance transparency and accountability within the criminal justice system and reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. One way this goal is achieved is by sharing data and observations with law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, and the public to promote awareness of impaired driving and ensure accountability for all impaired driving offenders. To reduce future offenses, MADD® supports swift and unbiased treatment of all impaired driving cases. 1 Richard, C. M., Magee, K., Bacon-Abdelmoteleb, P., & Brown, J. L. (2018, April). Countermeasures that work: A highway safety countermeasure guide for State Highway Safety Offic- es, Ninth edition (Report No. DOT HS 812 478). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This report is designed to present observations and trends relative to the counties monitored and is not intended to be statistical analysis. South Carolina State Report (reporting period: 1/1/2020 – 12/31/2020)
Pending Cases Monitored:
Dropped / Dismissed / Not Guilty Pled Down
Adjudicated Cases Monitored:
Total Cases Monitored in 2020:
*Pending cases are cases waiting a judgement result.
Pled Down Dropped / Dismissed / Not Guilty Guilty
Key Findings and Observations South Carolina’s court monitors review misdemeanor DUI cases in the summary courts of Greenville, Richland, Lexington, Spartanburg, Berkeley, Charleston and Horry Counties. Some counties have been monitored as far back as January 2016 and some have just been monitored since January 2019. The monitors are physically present for court settings and acquire case information from courtroom observation but often collect data from researching online databases, as well. The findings are then entered into the MADD National Court Monitoring Database for reporting purposes. This report is designed to present observations and trends for some of the counties monitored and is not intended to be a statistical analysis. The findings reveal that conviction rates vary dramatically by county. The reasons for South Carolina’s unacceptably low conviction rate are many and include an unfairly strict videotaping statute, a system that practically rewards those who violate their agreement to provide a breath or blood sample if asked, too few judges taking the full ownership necessary to treat DUI seriously, too little DUI training for officers and judges, and insufficient resources for prosecution, which leaves many officers in the state having to prosecute their own DUIs. It is reasonable to connect South Carolina’s low conviction rate with the fact that it is among the nation’s worst for drunk driving fatalities. South Carolina’s 285 deaths in 2019 is higher than many other states with millions more citizens. MADD South Carolina continues to monitor cases in these counties, but some things South Carolina needs to do are already very apparent. We call for change in the following areas: • Ensure that the state’s laws for refusing to provide a breath or blood sample upon arrest actually have teeth so that there is a downside to refusing, unlike now where one could argue it works heavily in the favor of the person being charged. The best step would be to add an ignition interlock device requirement for being eligible to get a Temporary Alcohol License if theirs is revoked for refusing. • Amend the state’s dash cam video recording statute so that the other evidence in a DUI arrest can be used even when there is a problem with the video. • Ensure those arrested for DUI for the first time are treated seriously because a “slap on the wrist” could not only lack the deterring effect needed to prevent future offenses but also emboldens those arrested subsequent times to believe that they will be able to beat their charges again. • Embrace technology to aid in the fight against DUI including increased use of ignition interlock devices so that they are required of all convicted offenders and those who want to drive after refusing, electronic methods for getting a search warrant more efficiently, more officers with body cams, and teleconferencing services to simplify the logistics of court hearings that can sometimes prevent convictions. • Encourage adequate resources for DUI prosecution so that attorneys are prosecuting rather than officers and more aggressive prosecution of DUI cases overall so that more offenders are held accountable with the appropriate penalties and not pled down to reckless driving charges that do not keep the public as safe from repeat offenses. Our county with the highest conviction rate, Spartanburg County, was able to point to both a more aggressive prosecution culture and tangible “tough” actions. • Urge judges to own the culture of how DUI cases are handled in their courtroom and to recognize the impact of case delays by the defense on the likelihood of a conviction. • Increase training for officers on proper handling of DUI arrests as officer error on these very complicated cases can ensure there will not be a conviction.
Driving a vehicle while impaired is a dangerous crime, yet continues to happen across the United States. Each year, about 1 million individuals are arrested. What happens after those arrests depends on the criminal justice system. As a MADD court monitor, you can get the insider’s perspective on the judicial system while making a vital contribution to your local community. Your presence in court and the data you collect will help make sure our laws are upheld and the criminal justice system does what it is intended to do: Keep us safe. Court monitors achieve the work of MADD’s Court Monitoring Program by doing the following:
Remind law enforcement that MADD wants to see their cases prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law
Track conviction rates and sanctions
Identify trends in offender age, gender, and blood alcohol concentration level
Notify judicial system of deficiencies
Create public outcry when weaknesses go unaddressed
For more information about court monitoring efforts in your state, please visit madd.org/courts .Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4
Made with FlippingBook - Online Brochure Maker