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Short report on Mount Pleasant cop's DUI arrest is criticized

Police in South Carolina are taking heat in the aftermath of a DUI arrest of a Mount Pleasant police major. The police major was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after he crashed his jeep earlier this month, but the arresting officer's report was so skimpy that criminal charges could never hold up.

In general, law enforcement agencies in South Carolina document a suspect's DUI arrest with observations of his or her behavior, notes of how he or she performed on a field sobriety test and anything else that may indicate intoxication. These detailed reports are used by authorities in order to file criminal charges and by the prosecution to seek a conviction. But, when this Mount Pleasant cop refused to take a breath test, the arresting officer jotted down only five words: "Subject arrested for DUI refusal."

To put this into perspective, it is important to note that often DUI arrest reports in Charleston are hundreds of words and multiple pages.

The South Carolina Post and Courier questioned authorities about the thin report, and The South Carolina Highway Patrol has now ordered all troopers to include detailed summaries in all of their arrest incident reports. The Post and Courier's investigation revealed that arresting officers quite often provide far less incriminating information in the arrest reports of fellow officers than those of civilians.

This discrepancy illustrates the subjectivity of DUI arrests, which is something Charleston residents should be especially aware of this weekend when DUI patrols are bolstered for St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The observations, however biased, that a police officer includes in an arrest report can be used against someone to  wrongly convict them of DUI. This is why it is essential for Charleston area residents to know that they do not have to settle for a conviction if they are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. A skilled defense attorney can often find holes in an arresting officer's report as well as challenge the validity of a breath or field sobriety test in order to fight for the best possible outcome of your case.

Source: The Post and Courier, "5-word report in DUI case a red flag," Andrew Knapp, March 16, 2012

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