South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division digitally stores a plethora of files and information, including all breath test videos taken in DUI cases. By law, this information is available online so that DUI defendants, prosecutors, and DUI defense attorneys can access them. For about five weeks, this information was unavailable due to an issue at SLED headquarters in Columbia.
SLED's original explanation for the malfunction: a lightning strike. Turns out, there wasn't a lightning strike within three miles of SLED's headquarters on the day the database went offline. SLED Chief Mark Keel admitted that "it had nothing to do with a lightning strike."
The outage was in fact caused by a failure of SLED's electrical and power backup equipment, exposing some serious shortcomings in SLED's electrical system as well as how the DUI files themselves are backed up. Getting the system up to snuff will cost $250,000.
Keel said that after a rectifier blew in July, maintenance crews scrounged up a replacement from another system. But after they hooked it up, that one also blew. Concerned that SCE&G’s electricity supply was vulnerable because of the summer’s many thunderstorms, crews then switched the computer systems’ power supply directly to a generator.
“Lo and behold, the generator shut down, and we had a hard (computer) crash, exactly what we had been trying to avoid.” Crews fixed the generator, and it crashed again. Because of all these problems, databases containing large amounts of videos involving DUIs were unavailable for several weeks.
The crash also caused criminal arrest record data to be lost for several hours on more than one occasion. Officers access this data while in the field to find outstanding warrants and other criminal information. No access to the system seriously compromises officer safety.