BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt was sworn in for his new term of office during a private ceremony on Friday morning, county officials say.
DeWitt was arrested for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident on Dec. 28.
The Highway Patrol said DeWitt crashed into another car at the intersection of Red Bank Road and Henry E. Brown, Jr., Boulevard in Berkeley County at around 5 a.m. and was later tracked down. Troopers said DeWitt refused a breathalyzer test and was then brought to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.
DeWitt was released on a personal recognizance bond that evening. The judge questioned the legality of DeWitt's arrest by state troopers, citing a state law mandating the county's coroner is the only county officer with the power to arrest a sheriff.
“MADD South Carolina is extremely disappointed to hear of Berkeley County Sheriff DeWitt's DUI arrest," stated a press release by Mother Against Drunk Driving."Drunk driving is completely unacceptable, especially by a law enforcement leader. Law enforcement are held to a higher standard, and we expect them to act accordingly. We are grateful to the thousands South Carolina officers that take drunk driving seriously and work tirelessly to keep our roads safe. Our hearts go out to the victim. We know first-hand how drunk driving injuries and deaths impact lives, families and entire communities. Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable every time.”
The sheriff faced opposition for the first time in a re-election bid, but won the Republican primary on June 10, and ran unopposed in the November election. DeWitt has served as sheriff for 20 years.
According to state law, a South Carolina sheriff cannot be removed from office unless he is indicted.
That did not stop protesters from gathering outside the Berkeley County government building in Moncks Corner Friday.
They held up signs demanding that DeWitt be removed from office.
"We believe DeWitt needs to not be allowed to act as sheriff because of the two very serious charges against him," said protest organizer Kathi Regalbuto.
"If any other citizens would have committed the crime that DeWitt committed they would have behind bars," protester Crystal Bagley said.
DeWitt began his law enforcement career as a patrolman with the Holly Hill Police Department in 1972, according to the Berkeley County website. He joined the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office in 1974 and worked there until 1992 when he took a position with MUSC, the site states.
He has served as sheriff since January of 1995.