8th Circuit Solicitor's office DUI friendly?

If you're a drunk driver, you may find the counties of the Eight Judicial Circuit - Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens and Newberry Counties - a friendlier place to drive than other Upstate counties thanks to incumbent Solicitor Jerry Peace.

A brewing issue in the ongoing Republican primary battle between Peace and challenger David Stumbo is over the low DUI conviction rate in the Circuit. Last fall, WSPA TV News 7 in the Upstate reported that in a four-month period last summer, over eighty percent of DUI cases in Greenwood and Abbeville Counties were dismissed, with Greenwood County's conviction rate was 18% and Abbeville’s rate at 22%.

While Peace says this was because defendants offered to plead guilty to a lesser charge like reckless driving, but when compared to other Upstate counties for the same time period, this conviction rate came in well behind the following counties:

  • Anderson County (10th Circuit): 68%
  • Greenville County (13th Circuit): 59%
  • Oconee County (10th Circuit): 68%
  • Pickens County (13th Circuit): 43%
  • Spartanburg County (7th Circuit): 44%

This means that you were at least twice as likely to be convicted of DUI charges if you were charged in an Upstate county outside of Peace's judicial circuit.

Ironically, several months before this wave of plea-dealing, each Solicitor's office received a $75,000 grant which was to be directed to prosecuting drunk drivers. A lot of good that money did.

Current SC Law Enforcement Officers' Association President Jackie Swindler, who is the Chief of Police in Newberry (in the 8th Circuit), expressed concerns that dismissing or pleading DUI charges down to often could send the wrong message to drunk drivers. Given an unusually low DUI conviction rate isn't going to make Swindler's job any easier - nor will it make the highways of the 8th Circuit any safer.

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