Area DUI arrests on New Year’s Eve

Charleston Police: 1Charleston County Sheriff’s Office: 2Mount Pleasant Police: 2Folly Beach Public Safety: 1 Summerville Police: 2S.C. Highway Patrol (Charleston,Berkeley, & Dorchester counties): 5

Some investigators in the Lowcountry believe their public messages about the consequences of driving under the influence are paying off following a slow New Year’s Eve.

But possible cuts in state money could make DUI cases tougher to prosecute in the coming year.

Checkpoints and expanded enforcement on New Year’s Eve led to only two arrests by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office for DUI.

“The DUI numbers are not indicative of the effort made to detect drivers who are driving while impaired,” sheriff’s Maj. James Brady said. “They appear instead to be an indication that public service announcements and media blitzes stressing the use of designated drivers or using alternative transportation, coupled with enforcement efforts, are paying off.”

Five other Lowcountry law enforcement agencies in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties had a combined total of 11 DUI arrests. Highway Patrol officials made 16 DUI arrests through their special holiday enforcement between Dec. 28 and Jan. 1, which also included checkpoints.

Statewide, the number of DUI arrests is holding steady. In 2011 there were about 26,000 DUI arrests. Early numbers of arrests for 2012 show about 26,000 DUI arrests again last year, according to Highway Patrol officials.

Handling the prosecutions of those arrests may get tougher. The state’s prosecutors are asking the Legislature for an additional $1.6 million to pay for special prosecutors to handle the state’s DUI cases every year.

That may be in trouble because a state lawmaker has indicated that the Legislature may not have the money, according to David Ross, executive director of the S.C. Commission on Prosecution Coordination, which requested the grant.

Without the funding, it could mean state troopers would have to prosecute their own DUI cases, and the solicitors’ offices also would have to shoulder an extra workload, Ross said.