Deputy’s DUI charge reduced


A Charleston County sheriff’s deputy avoided a possible DUI conviction, despite a police report that said he smelled of alcohol when he smashed a Lexus SUV into an interstate on-ramp.

A City of Charleston municipal court judge reduced the charge against 37-year-old Nicholas Wagner to reckless driving. Wagner’s employment status with the sheriff’s office remains uncertain as an internal investigation continues.

Wagner had been scheduled to appear in court on May 24. Instead, he answered to the charge at a bench trial on May 17 and paid the $445 reckless driving fine on May 23, court officials said.

Neither Wagner nor his attorney could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Charleston police arrested Wagner after he crashed into the Interstate 526 West on-ramp at U.S. Highway 17 around 2 a.m. on May 5, an incident report said. Sheriff’s officials said Wagner was off duty and was driving a personal vehicle at the time of the wreck.

He started working for the Sheriff’s Office at the county jail in July 1999, according to sheriff’s Maj. Jim Brady. Wagner became a deputy in March 2002.

Supervisors placed Wagner on administrative leave without pay following the wreck. The personnel investigation into the incident remains open, Brady said.

A witness called in the May 5 crash after watching an SUV hit the guardrail, the police report said. A Charleston officer noted that the SUV had been totaled and that Wagner “smelled of an alcoholic beverage, had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and he swayed as he walked,” according to the report.

The report said Wagner told the Charleston officer that he “had a bad night” and that he came from downtown and “just lost control.” Wagner also told the officer that the wet spot on his pants did not happen during the car wreck but instead when he urinated on himself earlier in the night, according to the report.

Wagner refused to take field sobriety tests, so the police officer arrested him, the report said. The officer removed Wagner’s gun from inside the vehicle and took him to the Cannon Detention Center.

Wagner refused to let the officer check his mouth during a breath alcohol test, according to the report, and jail staff booked him. Authorities released him on a personal recognizance bond hours later.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594.