In August and September of 2019, the MADD SC Court Monitoring program held its annual Court Monitoring Roundtable meetings for the Midlands, Upstate and Coastal Regions. The counties monitored under the current grants are Richland, Lexington, Greenville, Spartanburg, Horry, Charleston, and Berkeley. These counties were chosen based solely on the DUI crash numbers in those areas. One of the ways that Court Monitoring gains its feedback and knowledge is by hosting an annual Roundtable Meeting in each of these counties with attendees including key stakeholders such as law enforcement, solicitors, prosecutors, Clerks of Court, volunteers, and local partners. Five total meetings were held with some meetings covering two counties.
The Roundtable Meetings were an opportunity for MADD SC to share progress on our court monitoring efforts, focused on first offense misdemeanor DUIs in the monitored counties, and provided the attendees the opportunity to give us feedback. We gave updates on our current case numbers, shared some of our in-court observations, shared our timeline to eventually release a report for the area, and discussed some ideas for raising awareness of our efforts among the judiciary. We also shared results from our law enforcement survey on DUI arrest barriers. Some other topics that were discussed at the meetings were numbers and data that was previously released by MADD in 2018, and MADD’s support of Senate Bill 18 that requires all convicted DUI offenders to get an Ignition Interlock Device.
Most discussions with our attendees echoed the same sentiment—it is very apparent that our DUI laws, as they are written, are insufficient and this needs to be addressed. For instance, one of the most consistent issues was the fact that our law enforcement heroes feel as if there are too many loopholes working in favor of the defense, therefore making them feel that a plea deal is their only option. Another concern was the lack of training that most judges and magistrates receive regarding DUI laws and procedures. In South Carolina, new judges and magistrates are only required to do three hours of education in regards to DUI laws. It takes the typical law enforcement officer three hours to process just one DUI arrest.
While there are great concerns and issues with SC DUI laws that need to be addressed, MADD continues to monitor these problems through effective Court Monitoring. The Court Monitoring Program hopes to release a report of these findings by Spring of 2020. In the meantime, we will continue building positive relationships throughout our justice system with the hopes that collectively we can make a positive change in South Carolina. While it is very clear that these problems will not be fixed overnight, this will not deter MADD’s Court Monitoring Program from identifying and discussing these problems until we have “No More Victims!”