COLUMBIA - A series of bills involving law enforcement-related issues will be taken up by the legislature Tuesday.
The Senate's judiciary subcommittee will consider a House bill that would add another requirement to the steps an officer has to take when pulling over someone for suspected drunk driving.
The measure, which already passed the House in April, will require DUI vehicle units equipped with dash cams to also include an audio recording of the event. The bill has already undergone one minor, but significant modification since its introduction.
Initially, the bill was drafted to require that a video recording at the breath test site must also include an "audible" recording. But there's a problem with that, said Jeff Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association.
Audible means those listening to the video must be able to understand it. That can be hard when dealing with someone who is drunk, who might not want to speak loud enough or directly into a microphone, Moore said.
"They want us to always - when there are cameras - have audio," Moore said. "That's fine, but just understand that when somebody is drunk, they're mumbling, they're fumbling, they're talking to the floor, they're talking to their shoes; it's just not always audible."
Another bill being discussed by the Senate's judiciary committee is one that tackles cases that involve expungement. When a case is dropped against someone or the person is found not guilty, and the case is expunged, cities and law enforcement agencies have to destroy everything related to the arrest, including booking records and files. Jails are exempt and can keep records for up to three years under seal.
This measure would allow for the same exemption to apply for law enforcement agencies for up to three years, also under seal. The bill was drafted out of necessity to give agencies the ability to defend themselves in court, Moore said.
There is a case in Sumter in which a person who was arrested is suing the city. The person's case was expunged and the files were destroyed, Moore said. The city now has no proof to use in the case.
"It allows us to keep under seal those documents," he said. "It's really no more than an effort for cities and towns to defend themselves."
Meanwhile, the House will continue its debate on a bill that deals with multi-jurisdictional task forces, when departments lend their officers to other municipalities. The House has been debating the measure since April.
The bill will allow for the law enforcement agency, such as a county sheriff, to send backup to a neighboring agency requesting aide without having to ask for permission from the county's council; the sheriff's office will still have to tell council what they're doing.
"In some cases (councils) are saying 'no' just because they don't like the sheriff," Moore said. "The enforcement of the law shouldn't be left up to the people who like you or don't like you. It ought to be left up to the professionals."
Calls placed to Reps. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, and David Weeks, D-Sumter, were not immediately returned.
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