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SC senator spent time in jail after being found slumped over in parked car, reports show

Tom Davis mugshot

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is shown in a Lexington County Detention Center mugshot after his Jan. 1 arrest on a public intoxication charge. Lexington County Sheriff /Provided

LEXINGTON — State Sen. Tom Davis spent at least six hours in a Lexington County jail on public intoxication charges after the Beaufort County lawmaker was found slumped over his steering wheel in a shopping center parking lot and failed a field sobriety test in the early hours of New Year's Day, according to police reports.

"(The officers') position was, and I don't fault them for this at all, was that they couldn't leave me there because if I then were to drive and something happened, then there might be some implication or culpability on the part of law enforcement for letting me stay there," Davis told The Post and Courier on Jan. 3.

The new details of the arrest came after town of Lexington and Lexington County authorities released reports of the incident that Davis revealed in a news statement sent several hours after being released from the Lexington County Detention Center.

Davis' release did not mention that he spent time in jail. Davis and his attorney, Alexandra Benevento, told The Post and Courier that the term used in the release, "ticketed," implied he was jailed.

Davis was released from jail after a hearing where he received a $1,000 bond, according to the Lexington County Sherriff's Department. 

Davis was not driving at the time of his arrest and not charged with a DUI. 

Town of Lexington police officers found Davis in the driver's seat of a parked car close to 2 a.m. Jan 1 with windows fogged and his head slumped down on the steering wheel at the Target shopping center on Sunset Boulevard, according to a police report. 

The officers said Davis told them that he left his girlfriend's house after getting into an argument and was asked to leave. Davis told The Post and Courier that he was leaving a friend's house and he was not involved in an argument or he asked to leave. Davis said he was divorced in 2020.

"I left the party after the second the football game was over, (and) drove for about a minute or two at most," Davis sad. "I realized that I wasn't in a condition to drive. I pulled over. My car was off. I had no intention of driving."

According to the police report, Davis told officers that he didn't think he was intoxicated, but the officers found "Davis to have extremely slurred speech and an odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from" him.

Davis told officers that he was drinking alcohol at the party and was resting before heading back to his home in Beaufort, which is 2½ hours away. On Jan. 3, Davis told The Post and Courier that he was heading back to where he was staying in Columbia.

The officers conducted a field sobriety test that checks for involuntary jerking of the eyeballs, according to the report. The test indicated that Davis was intoxicated and officers placed him under arrest and took him to the detention center close to 4 a.m. He was released shortly after 10 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Davis is a Statehouse veteran, first elected in 2008, most widely known for his efforts to legalize medical cannabis in the state. He also was chief of staff for former Gov. Mark Sanford.

"I wanted to try to move forward, (and) try to make it up to my constituents and my family," Davis said about his statement.

Reach Leah Hincks at 843-830-2555. Follow her on Twitter @LeahHincks

Leah Hincks covers Lexington County for the Post and Courier in Columbia. She is a Massachusetts native who studied journalism at the University of Richmond, and spends her free time running and reading.

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