Like emptying a pebble from a shoe, state Rep. Ted Vick’s attorney was able to get a 2013 drunk-driving charge against the lawmaker dismissed Wednesday on a technicality.
Vicks’s attorney, fellow House member Todd Rutherford, argued successfully the case should be thrown out because officers failed to record Vick being read his Miranda rights as required by state law in suspected driving-under-the-influence stops.
Magistrate Josef Robinson dismissed the charge, which had fueled months of political chatter, two hours into the hearing in Columbia Central Court. The arrest took place inside the State House garage.
“I’m going to quote Dr. Martin Luther King: ‘Free at last, free at last, free at last,’ ” Vick said after the hearing. “It’s been a long year and a half. I have been waiting for this day to come.”
Vick, a Chesterfield Democrat who chose not to seek a sixth term this year, still faces drunken driving and weapons possession charges stemming from a 2012 arrest near Five Points. That DUI charge led to Vick’s withdrawal from the Democratic Primary race for the then-new 7th District congressional seat. The case could be heard in December, the city of Columbia court clerk’s office said Wednesday.
Vick said the DUI arrests did not lead to his departure from politics. The 42 year old now lives on Pawleys Island with his family.
On the night of his May 2013 arrest, Vick said he had glass of wine at a Main Street restaurant before walking to the garage. Vick said he was tired after walking about a mile and stopped to lean against a wall outside the parking garage to pull up his socks.
Rutherford told reporters last year that Vick stopped to remove a pebble from his shoe. However, Vick said that detail — “which got a lot of attention” — was incorrect.
Vick was arrested after an officer from the state unit that patrols the State House grounds first saw the lawmaker walking — side to side — toward the entrance to the underground State House parking garage, according to testimony Wednesday.
The officer, Austen Braddock, testified he followed Vick into the garage after seeing him lean against a wall for a moment. Braddock said he stopped Vick after seeing him drive his vehicle over a traffic cone.
Braddock told the court that he smelled alcohol on Vick, who also did not heed several requests to shift his vehicle into park.
Vick was told he was under arrest after declining to take a field sobriety test. A police dash-cam video, aired in court before the jury was seated, showed Vick struggling with Braddock and another officer. They then leave the camera frame.
The officers return on camera a few moments later with Vick in handcuffs. Braddock testified Vick was read his rights when the three were out of view.
Just before a prosecutor was about to play the dash-cam video for jurors, Rutherford asked Robinson to dismiss the case because the reading of Vick’s Miranda rights was not videotaped.
Robinson had rejected an earlier request for dismissal on those grounds from Rutherford, the Democratic leader in the S.C. House, because a prosecutor provided an affidavit saying Vick’s rights were read off camera.
But Robinson agreed with Rutherford on his second try.
The defense attorney argued state law says an affidavit is permitted only when a video cannot be produced, such as in cases where a police cruiser does not have a camera or the camera malfunctions. Rutherford said officers in the Vick arrest had a working video camera. But, the lawyer added, the officers failed to record Vick being read his legal rights despite taping the legislator sitting in the police cruiser for more than 20 minutes.
“It is offensive to me that the state believes that they don’t have to follow the law,” Rutherford said.
Asked about having the drunken-driving charge dropped without determining if he was too impaired to drive, Vick said, “Running over a directional cone is a technicality. It’s not against the law.”