Horry, Georgetown counties speed up prosecuting cases by going digital

Horry, Georgetown counties speed up prosecuting cases by going digital (WPDE)

The 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office has made a $30,000 upgrade, and now the local police departments are being required to follow suit.

Recently, a judge mandated evidence be stored and uploaded through Digital Discovery. It's a digital platform designed to keep all the evidence for cases in one place.

The 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office implemented the digital platform a few months back, and so far has used it for more than 900 cases. The goal is to speed up the time it takes to prosecute a case.

Before police officers were having to physically drop off evidence to the court house. When you look at an average case file, by the time an officer is paid for their time and it's copied four to five times, each case ends up costing about $50, 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson predicts.

Now, it costs zero.

Last year, they handled about 10,000 cases.

"Before we had 18 different ways of bringing discovery. Atlantic Beach is a little bit different from Conway. Myrtle Beach is a little bit different than North Myrtle Beach and Aynor and South Carolina Highway Patrol. Everyone is a little bit different. At least now it is one consistent way of us getting discovery," Richardson said.

Discovery is the time between an arrest and bond hearing and the court case.

The solicitors office is supposed to have all available evidence within 30 days. That wasn't always happening.

Richardson said, now, he's sometimes getting all the evidence the day of the arrest, if not within one to two days. It's a game changer.

"Not only are you saving on the 20-30 minute drive to Conway to drop it off, or the two hour drive from SLED, you’re also correcting a flaw in it where you’re waiting on 20 files to keep from driving to Conway every day," he said.

It's also making it easier on police departments like Myrtle Beach. It cost about $10,000 for the department to implement the new platform, but ultimately will save them money.

“It’s lessened the time we spend on each case, which equals money," Sgt. Allen Amick said.

The department is also looking into adding body cameras that work specifically with the digital platform. They are testing them right now, and if they decide to move forward it'll cost more than $150,000, Amick said.

It's not only time and money this is saving, it's also holding people accountable and lessening confusion.

“It’s actually given us some accountability. We can see what we’ve transmitted. It’s transmitted instantaneously for the most part. If the solicitors office calls us and needs a piece of evidence specifically we can actually just send that one piece of evidence," Amick said.

And the clarity moves well beyond police and the solicitor, it extends to the defense attorneys as well.

“There won't be nearly as much discussion about what did we receive, when did we receive it. Because it will all have a digital foot print," Richardson said.

All major police departments in Horry and Georgetown counties have implemented the program, except the City of Georgetown, which says it will eventually.

Smaller departments like the Town of Andrews are able to come down to the Solicitor's Office and upload the files.

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