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Will new legislation change DUI defense strategies?

Some previous postings in this blog have discussed the ambiguity of South Carolina's legislation when it comes to the authorities' ability to issue DUIs. Some claim that these ambiguities prevent the conviction of a person who is facing drunk driving charges because their defense team is able to work through so-called loopholes. In addition to the laws that have already been previously discussed in this blog, there are now more concerns being raised about the jury-selection process outlined in South Carolina's legislation covering alleged drunk drivers.

Those that are criticizing what they believe to be an outdated law say that it is preventing drunk drivers from facing a conviction because it is not always possible to find the right number of jurors to hear a drunk driving case. The law in question was passed in 1979 and it established the lines for jury areas in magistrate courts. However, many of those boundaries are now outdated due to changes in those communities.

When an individual is charged with drunk driving, they seek to have a trial with jurors that live in the area where the alleged crime was committed. This sometimes raises problems when the magistrates have to determine a jury pool because they do not always know who lives within certain magisterial districts. This can make it difficult to create a jury pool and it almost always means an inevitable delay in the hearing of the case. These delays are sometimes so significant that authorities will drop the charges out of frustration.

In an attempt to remedy this concern, the South Carolina Senate has approved a bill that would redefine the lines of the magisterial districts. This would make it easier for juries to be pulled from a pool in the area where the crime allegedly occurred.

Sometimes problems with the jury pool can lead to the state dropping the charges. As this legislation makes its way through South Carolina's Senate and House of Representatives, it will be important for those facing DUI charges now and in the future to pay close attention to the result. It may have a significant impact on DUI defense strategies going forward.

Source: The State, "Bill targets outdated SC rules that benefit DUI suspects, speeders," Sammy Fretwell, June 3, 2013

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