The South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is calling for an investigation after it was revealed Wednesday that a temporary blackout of a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) database that contains videos of DUI breath tests and other records was not caused by a lightning strike.
SLED Chief Mark Keel told the Charleston Post & Courier Wednesday that a lightning strike did not cause the SLED Implied Consent website to go offline back in early July. SLED spokesman Thom Berry previously stated a lightning strike damaged the Implied Consent server, which houses all dash camera videos and breath test results from DUI cases dating back to 1991.
The website was first reported down on July 5. According to SLED officials the website was restored on August 7.
Keel on Wednesday said the actual cause of the outage was a string of electrical problems that began when a rectifier blew at the agency’s headquarters. He said officials incorrectly believed at the time that a lightning strike caused the problem. Although he said he still doesn’t know what caused the rectifier to blow, Keel insisted “any rumor that it had to do with hacking is totally false.”
South Carolina Radio Network has requested an interview with Keel and is waiting to hear back.
SCACDL Executive Director Kitty Sutton says she is concerned that attorneys did not have access to information important to their clients for over a month. Sutton says along with the issue of accessibility to information she is also concerned about transparency in light of the new information “that the initial explanation was not valid.”
“Lightning did not cause the computer problems at SLED and should have never been offered to the public as an excuse for those problems,” SCACDL said in a statement. “The fact that it was is indicative of a serious underlying problem that concerns all South Carolinians.
The organization is calling on SLED and Chief Keel to “appoint an independent commission composed of members of the defense bar, the scientific community and the judiciary to investigate SLED’s entire Implied Consent/DUI programs and procedures.”
The group says they will call on Governor Haley and the State General Assembly to look into the matter if SLED does not investigate.