As reported by WMBF News in Surfside Beach, SC, the DUI case against Mayor Allen Deaton has been deemed "unprosecutable" by the Horry County Solicitor's Office. Deaton was stopped in January for speeding and given a field sobriety test, but refused to take the Breathalyzer test.
Greg Hembree, 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor said, "It was an unprosecutable DUI case because there was not sufficient evidence to go forward with any expectation of success. That's not to say that [Deaton] wasn't drinking. He was and we can prove that he had something to drink, but the rest of the evidence in the case was not as strong."
Hembree states that there are three qualifiers for a DUI conviction: reckless or impaired driving, a poor result on the field sobriety test and a failure to pass a Breathalyzer test. Deaton was pulled over for speeding, not reckless driving, thereby making it a "poor foundation to build a DUI case on. There wasn't any weaving observed. It wasn't as if he was in and out of his lane or running stop signs."
The dash cam video of Deaton's field sobriety test wasn't enough proof for a DUI conviction either. Hembree continues, "On the tape, he didn't sound drunk, he didn't look drunk, and it's very tough to ask a jury to go back when they look at the tape and see a guy who looks like he's okay."
One of the Surfside Beach police officers, Joe Carcich, has a different opinion of the facts and offered, "I would have had no problems coming down and giving my testimony as to the events that occurred that night. With the best video equipment, you still cannot see what I'm seeing a foot and a half away from the person. The tape doesn't show or can't tell you the smells, can't tell you specific details."
Based on his DUI training Carcich attested that, "I'd say that yes, Mr. Deaton was more than a .08. I don't arrest somebody if I feel that I'm not going to be able to convict them."
Officer Carcich has recently moved to New Jersey stating personal reasons.
Hembree contends that the case would have wasted taxpayer money as it lacks the necessary hard evidence, "The bottom line is we had a pretty shaky case against Deaton. It was difficult for me to justify spending the taxpayer's money to bring this guy back, when even with his testimony the likelihood is it comes back not guilty."
Deaton pleaded guilty to speeding 60 mph in a 45 mph zone and in exchange the state dropped the DUI charge.
A Surfside Beach Police officer clocked Deaton's vehicle moving at a high rate of speed before midnight on January 8. After being pulled over, Deaton had difficulty getting his paperwork together - including handing the officer a gold Visa credit card instead of a driver's license - before addressing the officer. The officer reported a strong odor of alcohol wafting through the open door, the mayor's eyes were glassy and his speech was slurred.
Deaton claimed to have just come from his Moose Lodge where he had been engaged in a pool tournament. In the report Deaton apologized when asked if he had been drinking.
The officer that administered the field sobriety test reported a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. Deaton refused to take the Breathalyzer test.
In the last 6 months Deaton has maintained his stance of innocence and claims it was just a "calamity of errors."
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