We think we can safely say most folks around here are okay with cops enforcing DUI laws. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a problem with those laws, which, of course, were written by a number of defense attorneys serving in the state legislature. We are not aware of any other charge which state legislators have made such a concerted effort to make it tougher to prosecute. After talking to a couple of police officers recently we were stunned at just how difficult it has become to get a DUI conviction.
Let’s review two cases in which the local “news” folks failed to report all of the pertinent facts. The first case involves Daniel Hamrick who struck a road crew worker in Mt. Pleasant. That worker suffered severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. The insurance company for “Dog and Duck”, where Hamrick had apparently been drinking, paid out four million dollars to the now fully incapacitated construction worker. Based on the settlement order, it doesn’t appear Hamrick paid a dime.
Hamrick took the criminal case to trial, was found guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Deadra Jefferson. He must have thought he had a pretty good chance to win, given the breaks he had already received from an inept 9th Circuit Solicitor.
In 2002 Hamrick was charged with 2nd Offense DUI. Four months after the arrest the 9th Circuit Solicitor pled the case down to 1st Offense DUI. The reduced charge was sent to Judge James Gosnell who sentenced Hamrick to a $300 fine.
In 2006 Hamrick was again charged with 2nd Offense DUI. Common sense folks would know this is actually his 3rd Offense. Unfortunately, the law only counts offenses within the previous ten years from the date of the offense.
Once again, nine months later, the 9th Circuit Solicitor reduced the charge to 1st Offense DUI and sent the case down to Magistrate Priscilla Baldwin, who sentenced Hamrick to a $400 fine.
State legislators made it more difficult to get a DUI conviction, which in turn makes some solicitors shy away from prosecuting 2nd or subsequent offense DUI charges. They would rather plead it down and send it to a lower court.
Take a look at Hamrick’s traffic history in Charleston county.
It is about time he was taken off the road.
Now, let’s review the case of Jessica Lynn Lanier. She was initially charged with DUI in October of 2011 after running down a couple of firefighters. Here is the video.
Lanier had been charged with DUI twice in the year prior to mowing down the firefighters. The charge in Goose Creek from 2010 was listed as a “non-conviction”, as was the charge made by the SCHP in January of 2011.
As you can see, Lanier made no effort to slow down or exercise due care while driving through this scene with emergency personnel present and lot of emergency warning lights flashing. She also failed to stop after hitting the firefighters.
Lanier was originally charged with 1st Offense DUI. The charges were upgraded in January 2012 to Felony DUI by SCHP.
Assistant 9th Circuit Solicitor Brian Alfaro reduced the charge back to 1st Offense DUI and told folks the injuries sustained by the firefighters did not amount to the statutory definition of “great bodily injury.”
Great bodily injury as defined by SC law – injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss of or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.
The only injuries mentioned by the “news” articles are “leg injuries” suffered by the firefighters. No further details are available in “news” reports on the incident.
Lanier ended up being sentenced to a $997 fine, her license was suspended for six months and she was ordered into an alcohol intervention program. She didn’t plead guilty to the charge, she pled “no contest”. In other words, she refused to accept full responsibility. Based on clerk of court records, it doesn’t appear she was even sued by the firefighters she ran down.
We are also closely watching the case of Felix Garcia-Romero. He is the illegal alien who drunkenly plowed into an accident scene in June of this year. He was charged with three counts of Felony DUI and is still lodged in the Al Cannon Detention Center with a total bond of $300,500.00 and a hold for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Of course, there is absolutely no way the federal government will take any action against him, given the fact they have ceased deportations of law breaking aliens. ICE representatives said Garcia-Romero would have to serve any sentenced before he ICE takes action. That might be a fortunate thing, since the current administration will just be bitter history by then. Unless of course, he pleads guilty before Judge Thomas “Felon’s Friend” Hughston. We all know how that sentencing would go.
And don’t forget what Judge Thomas “Felon’s Friend” Hughston did in the case of Samuel McCauley who killed Eleanor Caperton while he was driving under the influence. We wrote about that case on 18 July and pointed out the funky goings on, namely the failure to accurately reflect the reduced sentence in the public record. This case goes a long way towards explaining why attorneys have come out in defense of Hughston since we began pointing out just how ridiculous and pathetic his sentencing practices are.