In a court of law, there are specific rules governing what types of things can and cannot be admitted into evidence. Admitting something into evidence means that the evidence, whether it be an object, a statement, documents, photographs, or video, can be introduced for the judge or jury to consider when determining the outcome of the case. If something does not fit in with the rules, it is considered inadmissible and the judge or jury cannot consider it, even if it would be extremely important to the case.
For drunk driving accidents, some of the evidence a lawyer may want to introduce includes a breathalyzer test, statements made to officers during the arrest/stop, statements made at the police station, or videotape evidence showing the completion of a field sobriety test. In 2009, South Carolina law began requiring any videotape evidence to include field sobriety testing. This law has made prosecuting and holding drunk drivers accountable for catastrophic injuries and deaths very difficult.
Drunk Driving Evidence: Videotapes
The requirement that videotape footage include field sobriety testing is taken very literally in South Carolina, to the extent that if any portion of the test goes out of frame on the video, it cannot be used in court. A video may be unable to be introduced into evidence due to incompleteness, technological problems, visual, or audio problems as well. Any evidence introduced in trial needs to be deemed reliable; the viewers of a videotape need to be able to ensure that the video clearly depicts who you claim it is showing, that the time and date are accurate, that the video was not altered, and that it is a fair and accurate affirmation of the events. A lawyer may utilize witnesses or other evidence to prove all of this and, in turn, get the evidence admitted for the judge or jury to consider.
Moreover, under the South Carolina videotape law, an incomplete or seemingly defective video may even result in a case being dismissed entirely before even having the opportunity to have the case heard in court. This is true particularly in criminal matters; with civil matters, such as those involving catastrophic injury or wrongful death, this evidence is critical in building a case against a drunk driver.
Drunk Driving Case Evidence Alternatives
When an individual is killed or catastrophically injured due to the actions of another, the person responsible must be held accountable. In drunk driving cases, it is not uncommon to have statements from the defendant, breathalyzer results, or legal defenses, but an underlying conviction may be extremely helpful in a civil case. If these cases are not prosecuted due to an underlying problem with videotape evidence, this can delay and potentially harm the viability of the civil case as well.
Sometimes, this “hard” evidence is difficult to come by, not available, or not helpful to the case, so a video may ultimately be the best tool to demonstrate that a person was acting negligently or recklessly in order to hold them responsible. There are rules regarding whether prior actions of the defendant can be introduced into evidence, but it is possible to use prior convictions, reputation, or other information outside of the incident in question to use as support for a catastrophic injury or wrongful death case as well. What kinds of evidence should be utilized depends on the specific defendant, the circumstances of the incident, and the availability of helpful evidence to use at trial.
Columbia, South Carolina Injury Attorneys
Our experienced catastrophic injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Solomon Law Group believe that drunk drivers should be held accountable for their actions, both civilly and criminally. Regardless of what happens to the defendant during a criminal case, if you or anyone you know has been severely injured or killed due to the negligence of another driver, you may have a civil legal claim. We will explore, uncover, and utilize all available evidence to help ensure those who harmed you are held responsible, and work to get all available evidence introduced in trial. Contact our Columbia office to learn more about how to preserve your legal rights and seek recourse for the wrongful actions of others.