Swayze has learned a lot as prosecutor - The Greenwood Commonwealth, June 6, 2012

Charles J. Swayze III says he's learned a lot about human nature in his nearly three years as Greenwood's city prosecutor. 

One of those insights is that not everyone shares the attorney's understanding of proper outdorr attire. 

"Pants or no pants is an option for a lot of the citizens of Greenwood, and a lot of them choose no pants," Swayze told the Greenwood Rotary Club Monday with a grin. 

Indecent exposure is among the less serious offenses Swayze procecutes in Municipal Court, which handles only misdemeanor cases. At the other extreme are domestic violence cases. Some of these, according to Swayze,  have all the markings of a felony but are transferred to Municiapal Court because the district attorney is having trouble getting cooporation form the complainant or is facing other difficulties making a felony charge stick. 

Municipal Court meets twice a month and disposes of 40 to 50 cases each time, Swayze said. The more serious crimes, such as those that require the testimony of police, are handled in the morning session. The afternoon is dedicated to what Swayze call "he said, she said" cases. 

Trials cas last anywhere from five minutes to 1 and 1/2 hours, he said. 

The defendants are called up in alphabetical order. While they are waiting for their case to be heard, they sit in the courtroom audience and watch how their fellow defendants fare, he said. They usually aren't rooting for Swayze. 

"They will give high-fives when the defendant wins," he said. 

When he prepares to prosecute a DUI case, Swayze runs through a checklist to see how strong is the police's case. 

Why was the driver stopped? What was the probable cause? Was there the smell of alcohol? Was alcohol in the car? Were the driver's eyes red? Was his speech slurred? Did he refuse the field sobriety test?  Did he refuse the alcohol breath test?

Even if the police don't have a blood alcohol measurement proving that the defendant was at or above the legal limit of .08, that doesn't preclude a conviction, Swayze said. 

"You don't have to be falling-down drunk" to be found guilty of a DUI, he said. "You just have to be under the influence." 

For the first five months of this year, Swayze said, Municipal Court has collected more than $365,000 in fines. Police have issued more than 500 speeding tickets and, not including the Memorial Day weekend, almost 500 tickets for seat-belt violation. Eighty-three motorists have been charged with DUI. 

Greenwood police now have another tool in their arsenal: video equipped police cars. Swayze said, when the equipment is operating, it can provide irrefutable evidence for some violations. 

"I like the cameras, but they don't just work on everything," he said. 

Swayze invited teh audience to come observe Municipal Court. 

"You'd be surprised at what's going on around town. The police are doing a really good job," he said