CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - Kershaw County already leads the state in DUI deaths, but now hundreds of pending DUI cases in the county could soon be dismissed.
"We're looking at the case file of all the DUI cases pending in Kershaw County," said Chief Magistrate Eugene Hartis. "It's approximately 705 cases pending."
Hartis said most of those may be dropped. "If the officer has left the force and is not coming back, those cases will be called and they will be dismissed," he said.
The judge would not release this list of pending cases, but allowed us to look over the list. We found DUI cases as much as 11 years old still waiting to be heard by a jury.
Hartis said the delay is simply due to manpower. The judge says troopers are making 30 to 40 DUI cases each month for a team of two judges to hear. Hartis says each DUI case, on average, takes about three hours to try. "If I try 10 to 12 DUI cases each week, I still fall behind in those two weeks," said Hartis. "I can't get them all in."
It's a problem Hartis says Kershaw County has battled for years. "It's a problem when the sheriff's department or the Highway Patrol adds on troopers and deputies, but the court system does not," said Hartis. "So, we get behind."
The judge says the imbalance has caused DUI cases to pile up each year, and some say that's giving the county a bad reputation.
The state Supreme Court recently issued an order to magistrates that cases such as DUI must be tried within four months. Judge Hartis says that will be tough to do.
Hartis says he probably won't know how many cases will be dismissed until the end of April.