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Judge questions Berkeley Sheriff's DUI arrest

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HANAHAN, SC (AP) -

A judge has questioned a state trooper's arrest of the Berkeley County sheriff on drunken driving and hit and run charges, saying South Carolina law only allows the county coroner to arrest the sheriff.

Sheriff Wayne DeWitt was arrested around 6 a.m. Sunday after Hanahan Police stopped him because his truck matched the description of a vehicle involved in a hit and run minutes earlier.

But during DeWitt's bond hearing 12 hours later, Magistrate Judge James Polk questioned if he had the authority to set a bond since DeWitt's arrest might have been illegal. DeWitt's attorney said he would deal with that matter at a later court proceeding, and DeWitt was released on his own recognizance.

Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet who is not involved in the DeWitt case called the law "archaic".

Nisbet said the law needs to be amended to allow all law enforcement agencies to arrest sheriffs.

Nisbet said the Highway Patrol has statewide jurisdiction to make arrests.

DeWitt has been sheriff since 1994 and was re-elected this year.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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