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New law fails to ease process for officers

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ScanDaBands

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#1
S.C. troopers must try DUI cases in court

Recently in a magistrate's office in Richburg, two state troopers sat in a small wood-paneled room as the judge passed sentences in DUI cases.


Lance Cpls. Jeremy McCloud and William Westbrook were not there as witnesses, but as S.C. prosecutors.

As Westbrook brokered an agreement with a defense attorney outside, McCloud, in his state patrol uniform, talked with the judge inside about an upcoming trial.

"This is my first jury trial in front of you," he told Judge Benjamin Murdock. "You will have to [orient] me as to the jury room."

In most parts of South Carolina, troopers not only patrol the roads on the lookout for drunken drivers but also argue their own DUI cases before a judge. They call their own witnesses, issue subpoenas and file their own paperwork.

Critics say it's one of many problems that needs to change to shore up the state's driving under the influence laws.

Troopers are the only law enforcement agents who must try their own cases. Sheriffs departments and municipal police departments have attorneys to prosecute DUIs.
Last week Gov. Mark Sanford signed a new DUI law, which will strengthen the state's notoriously lax statute. It will take effect next year.

Before the signing of a new law, South Carolina ranked next to last in the country in the strength of DUI statutes, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Only Wisconsin ranked worse.

The state also ranked near the bottom in alcohol-related traffic deaths.
Of the 1,037 traffic deaths in 2006, 523 involved alcohol, according to a report by MADD.

The new DUI law requires an automatic six-month suspension of a driver's license if the driver refuses a Breathalyzer and a tiered scale of punishment depending on the amount of intoxication, and it drops the requirement for police officers to recite Miranda rights to suspects twice.

While the new law created harsher penalties for DUIs, it did not include any change to the current system of troopers trying first-time offenders in court.

Capt. Marc Wright, commander of Patrol Troop 4, covering seven Piedmont counties, said troopers will be in court two to seven hours per trial, plus additional time for trial preparation.

"It can be very time-consuming," Wright said.

At the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, troopers receive cursory training in how to prosecute DUI cases. But as the law becomes more complex, Wright said troopers would prefer that prosecutors take the cases. "We can argue facts of the case, but we can't argue the law."
 

kb2vxa

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#2
First of all a magistrate is not a judge, a magistrate is a justice of the peace having no judicial powers. I wonder what else the author screwed up, what the source was and the name of the yellow rag that published the article. Another product of The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging this is.

The hall runs like clockwork
Their hands mark out the time;
Empty in their fullness
Like a frozen pantomime.
Everyone's a sales representative
Wearing slogans in their shrine,
Dishing out failsafe superlative,
Brother John is number nine.

It's the grand parade of lifeless packaging
- all ready to use
It's the grand parade of lifeless packaging
- I just need a fuse.
 
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#3
kb2vxa said:
First of all a magistrate is not a judge, a magistrate is a justice of the peace having no judicial powers.
Sure about that? Magistrates in my state ARE judges appointed by the (elected) district judge that have limited judicial power.
 

DaveNF2G

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#4
A JOP is not legally the same as a judge, so KB2VXA's comment is correct and not meaningfully contradicted by your reply.

Don't they have District Attorneys in South Carolina?
 

Grog

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#5
It's always funny when people from one state think they know 100% about the legal system in all the other states. I guess playing with scanners all day is just as good as law school :lol:
 

mancow

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#6
Exactly the way it is here

I would say a guy in a black robe with a gavel that hears preliminary hearings, issues warrants, signs search warrants and is referred to as "judge" on the offical record is well...........a judge.

car2back said:
Sure about that? Magistrates in my state ARE judges appointed by the (elected) district judge that have limited judicial power.
 
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