February 10, 2016

DUI evidence database down for weeks after lightning strike

South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division officials say they hope to have a critical DUI evidence server back online next month. But, in the meantime, they are letting judges know that prosecutors and defense attorneys will not be able to access the system until next month.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said the server has been down since July 5, when officials believe lightning struck a power transformer located at the agency’s headquarters.

“We noticed that transformer was leaking. The power company came out, inspected it, and said the transformer was damaged and needed to be replaced. That has been done,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But… what (we believe) happened was the lightning strike then came in to the uninterruptible power supply unit and literally fried one of the rectifier units.”

He said that unit provides backup power for the offices. In order to avoid later problems, SLED officials decided to take all of their servers offline until the device could be repaired. Most were back online within a few hours, but the “Implied Consent” server took longer.

The Implied Consent server houses all dash camera videos and breath test results from DUI cases dating back to 1991. “We are in the process of bringing the server back online slowly,” Berry said. “It’s not as simple as just throwing a switch and getting everything immediately back online. It has to be brought back slowly.”

He said none of the recorded files were lost. The agency hopes to have the server back online by August 9.

SLED has sent notices to courts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys that they will not be able to download files from the server until it is operational again next month.

It’s not clear what impact this has had on the immediate prosecution of DUI cases. A spokesman for the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said he was not aware of any delays. He added that prosecutors would have already gathered evidence from the server well before the lightning strike for any cases currently in court.

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