Crime & Courts

Lexington Deputy resigns after DUI arrest. He worked in traffic unit enforcing DUI law

A nearly four-decade law enforcement career ended for a Lexington County deputy after a DUI arrest.

Deputy Robert Scott Smith resigned from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, his police record shows. The 57-year-old former officer’s resignation comes after the state Highway Patrol charged him with driving under the influence in late June. He tried to change lanes and swiped another vehicle on Interstate 26 near an exit for White Rock and Ballentine close to Lake Murray, the sheriff’s department said in a statement.

Smith failed a field sobriety test and refused a Breathalyzer, according to the statement. He had been a deputy since 1982.

Smith, who held the rank of Master Deputy, was part of the department’s traffic unit, according to a 1999 article by The State. The traffic unit includes officers trained in “Advanced DUI Detection, Collision Reconstruction, and Aggressive Criminal Enforcement,” according to the department’s website. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety awarded Smith a bronze “DUI Hero” award for arresting 10 DUI suspects in 2013, the department posted on social media.

In May 2018, Smith completed recertification training to operate Breathalyzer equipment known as DataMaster Testing, his criminal justice academy record shows. He was also a police driving instructor.

The charge is Smith’s first alleged DUI offense, court records show. Police charged him with having a blood alcohol level of less than 0.10 percent. The legal limit is under 0.08 percent. Smith, with his lawyer Heath Taylor, requested a jury trial. That’s standard practice with a DUI charge, Taylor said.

“It gives us time to assess where we are,” he said. “We obtain video, other evidence and make decisions on how to go forward.”

Lexington Sheriff Jay Koon placed Smith on paid administrative leave. Smith resigned June 25, department spokesperson Adam Myrick said.

Because refusing a breathalyzer results in a six-month driver’s license suspension, Koon likely would have been forced to fire Smith. Being a deputy requires having a license with no major driving violations.

Smith, who shared a name with his father, is the son of the longtime Chapin police chief who retired in 1999, The State reported two decades ago. As police chief, Smith’s father was known for being a dedicated but compassionate lawman, particularly with young people who broke laws, according to the article.

Remembering a time when a “youngster” vandalized property, the Chapin police chief told the young person, “’What you did was stupid, but I firmly believe you are not stupid.”

A first offense of DUI with under 0.10 percent blood alcohol level is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $400 fine. Often judges forgo the prison sentence and require 48 hours community service.

David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.