DUI cases all across South Carolina are being delayed for up to a month because a computer server is down at the State Law Enforcement Division.
On July 5th, there were fluctuations in the power supply to SLED computer servers, so the servers were shut down. Technicians found that part of the system’s battery backup system, a part called a rectifier, had been fried, possibly by a lightning strike. SLED also had to replace a transformer outside.
All of the servers were back online within a few hours, SLED spokesman Thom Berry says, but one particular server could not be brought back right away. That server holds the Breathalyzer test results and videos from DUI cases going back to 1991, which means hundreds of thousands of files.
“And so it's not like the vendor can come in, throw a switch and everything is immediately back up. They have to bring it back up slowly,” Berry says. He says the vendor hopes to have the server back online by August 9th.
"We haven't lost anything. All of the files are backed up, so everything is there,” Berry says. While the files are backed up in several locations as a precaution, the only way for lawyers to access those files is through that one server.
State law requires SLED to keep those DUI test results and videos on file and make them available to the lawyers handling the cases. Columbia defense attorney Joe McCulloch argued the case before the state Supreme Court that affirmed that requirement.
"For the new cases, the cases in which lawyers are now trying to get information in preparation for trial, they can't possibly go forward," McCulloch says. "They're frustrated, and we're trying to be patient. The judges are frustrated because they want to put the pressure on these cases to be moved along.”
No one knows exactly how many cases are going to be delayed. Lawyers go to SLED’s website and download the test results and videos that they need, so any cases for which they got that information before the server went down can proceed as scheduled. But any new DUI arrests that happened on or after July 5th will be delayed until the server is back online.
Berry says SLED is looking for ways to prevent this from happening again. "What we are working on is looking at the entire system to see what we can do better, what we can do to perhaps have a backup to a backup, or how we can just make it a little more problem-proof, if you will."
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