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State v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

May 14, 2014

The State, Respondent,
v.
Christopher Lee Johnson, Appellant

Heard January 7, 2014

Appeal From Greenville County. Appellate Case No. 2011-201808. G. Edward Welmaker, Circuit Court Judge.

Dayne C. Phillips, of Lexington, and Appellate Defender Carmen Vaughn Ganjehsani, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

THOMAS, J. SHORT and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 912

[408 S.C. 545] THOMAS, J.

Christopher Lee Johnson appeals his conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), arguing the circuit court erred in [408 S.C. 546] denying his motion to dismiss the charge because the Greenville Police Department (GPD) failed to comply with the video recording requirements of section 56-5-2953 of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2013).[1] We affirm.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In the early hours of March 18, 2010, Officer Jesse Lowe of the GPD conducted a traffic stop of Johnson after observing Johnson (1) operating a vehicle without its headlights on and with an inoperable brake light and (2) stopping at a red light, entering the intersection, and stopping again in the middle of the red-lit intersection. During the traffic stop, Officer Lowe noted Johnson's eyes were " glassy" and that he smelled of alcohol. Officer Lowe also noticed Johnson was wearing a wristband from a local restaurant and bar. After informing Johnson of his traffic violations, Officer Lowe asked Johnson if he had consumed any alcohol. Johnson responded " too much," and stated he had consumed " six to seven beers at least." As a result of his initial observations, Officer Lowe conducted three field sobriety tests.[2] After Johnson failed these tests, Officer Lowe placed Johnson under arrest for DUI and transported him to the Greenville County Detention Center.

Upon arrival at the detention center, Officer Lowe prepared an affidavit regarding his failure to produce a video recording of Johnson's conduct at the incident site. On the affidavit, Officer Lowe checked a box reading:

At the time of the Defendant's arrest the vehicle I was operating had not been equipped with [a] videotaping device and therefore pursuant to Section 18 of Senate Bill 174 of [408 S.C. 547] 1998, the videotaping requirement regarding vehicles is not applicable.

Johnson was subsequently indicted for second-offense DUI and driving under suspension, and the case proceeded to trial. Prior to trial, Johnson's counsel moved to dismiss the DUI charge on the ground that the GPD failed to comply with the video recording requirements of section 56-5-2953.

At a pre-trial hearing on this matter, Lieutenant Joe Browning testified regarding his management of the GPD's budget and the GPD's efforts over the previous decade to obtain and maintain video recording systems for their law enforcement vehicles. Lieutenant Browning stated the GPD acquired its first four camera systems from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as part of a safety award some time prior to 2001. Lieutenant Browning testified the GPD began an effort in December 2001 to purchase its own camera systems and expended ...


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