An Upstate woman who lost four loved ones in a crash involving a drunk driver is calling for South Carolina to make changes to the state’s DUI laws.
When Patricia Voelker talks about it, it’s still painful.
“Our lives were all just turned just inside out, upside down,” she said.
On August 1, 2010, she, her daughter, son-in-law, her grandson, and his brothers,
all gathered for a family celebration.
“My son-in-law later put on his Facebook page that it was the best family time they had ever had and that they should do it every year. Unfortunately,
they didn’t get the opportunity to do that,” Voelker said.
She says a 20-year-old, who drank alcohol and smoked weed for hours that day got behind the wheel.
“He ran a red light and he crushed their car between his car and the sign post for 7-Eleven and killed all four of my guys instantly,” Voelker said.
She’s now a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, M.A.D.D.
“Maybe you haven’t killed anybody yet because it’s yet, it’s always yet- it doesn’t mean that it will never happen,” she said.
The organization recently released a report where volunteers participated in court monitoring during DUI cases.
“We need to do what 30 other states have now done which is to say if you get a DUI conviction, you’re going to have to put an ignition interlock device on your car for some period of time,” Steven Burritt said.
He’s the program director with MADD’s South Carolina chapter. He says the legislature should change dash cam recording laws to allow evidence during suspected DUI arrests.
“If virtually anything goes wrong with the equipment or anything goes off from somewhere, even glares or shadows that obscure something- that means that case almost has zero chance of being a conviction,” Burritt said.
He says data also shows a systemic problem with plea deals in DUI cases.
“They have to happen in some cases, but we need to examine that line in how easily we plead cases,” he said.
John Bateman, a defense attorney in Greenville who specializes in DUI cases calls the report inaccurate.
“It wasn’t based on any kind of robust statistical analysis that I could see,” Bateman said.
He says he doesn’t consider video recording laws as loopholes.
“They’re provisions of the law passed by our legislature and they protect people and they preserve evidence for the juries to consider,” Bateman said.
“If you look at the statute, the statute provides for exceptions when there’s issue with the videotape.”
Voelker says she’ll continue to fight for new laws and has a message for anyone who drives high.
“Please try to think of somebody other than yourself,” she said.
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