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Senate to consider bill after recent DUI case

Many South Carolina residents are aware that the state has a number of outdated and somewhat ridiculous laws that remain on the books. Among these is the absolute prohibition of minors playing pinball; another forbids fortune tellers from setting up shop without a permit from the state. One unusual law has been brought to the attention of the public after the recent arrest of a sheriff under suspicion of DUI.

The case has been covered both here and elsewhere, and centers on an incident in December in which the sheriff of Berkeley County was arrested and charged with DUI. He was arrested by law enforcement officers in the normal manner. However, when the matter was brought before the county's magistrate, there was a question of whether that individual had the authority to set bond.

The reason for the hesitation is based on a South Carolina law that has been in place since 1932. That law, states that the coroner is the party given the authority to act in the role of sheriff in cases in which the sheriff is accused of criminal wrongdoing. While the interpretation of the exact wording of the law may be up for debate, the core of the matter is that it appears that legislators once gave coroners the sole authority to handle legal challenges made toward the sheriff in any given South Carolina jurisdiction.

The recent arrest of the Berkeley County sheriff has prompted the creation of Senate Bill 343, which would give any law enforcement officer the right to charge a sheriff with a crime. The change would mean that no special efforts would need to be made in cases in which a sheriff is accused of DUI or any other crime. As for the recent arrest, the case is still pending, and there is no word on whether the charges will stand, or if the matter will go before a South Carolina court of law.

Source: myhorrynews.com, "South Carolina bill proposes repealing coroner's ability to arrest sheriffs", Michael Smith, Jan. 20, 2015

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