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S.C. Supreme Court: DUI suspects must be shown on video when receiving Miranda warnings 

By: Teri Saylor//May 3, 2022

S.C. Supreme Court: DUI suspects must be shown on video when receiving Miranda warnings 

By: Teri Saylor//May 3, 2022

The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings requiring video recordings to visually depict a defendant under DUI charges being advised of his Miranda rights but refused to overturn a dismissal of charges against a defendant based on violations of that requirement. 

In a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court’s February 23 opinion was in response to an appeal by the State of South Carolina after a magistrate court dismissed DUI charges against defendant Kenneth Taylor, whose Miranda rights procedure was not shown on video when he was arrested seven years ago.  

On June 11, 2015, Lance Corporal R.B. Thornton of the South Carolina Highway Patrol responded to a call for assistance during a DUI stop. Thornton administered a field sobriety test, and ultimately arrested Taylor. He placed Taylor in his patrol car, sat in the driver’s seat and began advising him of his Miranda rights without activating his in-car camera. While Thornton could be heard asking Taylor if he understood the Miranda warnings, and Taylor could be heard responding, the exchange was not shown on camera.   

At question was the definition of the word “show.” 

The case proceeded to trial before a Spartanburg County magistrate where Taylor moved to dismiss the DUI charge because the video recording did not “show” him being advised of his Miranda rights as per language from subsection 56-5-2953(A). 

In its argument against dismissal, the State contended that even if a defendant is not seen on the video recording while being advised of his Miranda rights, the recording still “shows” the advisement of Miranda if the defendant and arresting officer can be heard. 

The courts disagreed. 

“The circuit court affirmed the magistrate court, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court, and we granted the State’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals’ decision,” Justice George C. James wrote for the Supreme Court.  

He went on to affirm the court’s findings that the magistrate court correctly interpreted the meaning of the word “show” as used in subsection 56-5-2953(A), and while upholding the dismissed charges in this case. 

The court further held that the state’s case ignored the South Carolina General Assembly’s 2009 amendment to subsection 56-5-2953(A), which changed the statute stating video recordings “must include the reading of Miranda rights” to new language specifying that video recordings must be available to “show” the person being advised of his Miranda rights. 

“The General Assembly could have retained the prior language or used other terms, but it intentionally amended the statute to add a visual requirement,” Justice James wrote. “The General Assembly chose to amend the statute as it did, and we cannot engage in forced construction of the words the General Assembly chose to employ.” 

The court agreed one of the primary purposes of the DUI video recording requirement is to ensure transparency and appropriate procedures that protect defendants’ rights. 

In the second matter regarding dismissal of the DUI charges over the failure to show the defendant receiving his Miranda rights, the court allowed there are a variety of failures and procedures that may go wrong, and outcomes will vary, but generally in those cases, charges should not be automatically dismissed.  

“Assume that in a setting similar to the one in which Taylor found himself, the video recording did not visually depict the administering of Miranda rights to a DUI defendant and assume the defendant did not utter a written or verbal word to law enforcement from the beginning of the encounter through the end of the DUI trial,” James wrote. “It would be absurd to require per se dismissal of the DUI charge simply because Miranda warnings were not visually depicted on camera.”  

Instead, he suggested other remedies may be put in place to address violations of the video recording statute. 

James went on to write that the supreme court “affirms the court of appeals’ holding that subsection 56-5-2953(A) requires a video recording to visually depict a defendant being advised of his Miranda rights at the incident site, and because the question of whether per se dismissal of Taylor’s DUI charge was appropriate is not before us, we affirm the dismissal. However, we hold that from this point forward, suppression of tainted evidence flowing from the failure to administer Miranda warnings in accordance with subsection 56-5- 2953(A) — not per se dismissal of the DUI charge — is the proper remedy.” 

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General William M. Blitch Jr., both of Columbia; and Solicitor Barry Joe Barnette, of Spartanburg, represented the state. Kenneth Taylor, of Inman, appeared in his own behalf. 

The 9-page decision is State v. Taylor (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-008-22). The full text of the opinion is available online at 

Teri Saylor is a writer in Raleigh, N.C.  

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