Guilty Plea to DUI
Council Member Neal will pay $1,202 after a DUI guilty plea
Clinton City Council Member Robbie Neal has pleaded guilty to first offense driving under the influence, and is paying a $400 fine.
With court costs and fees, her total payment at $100 per month will be $1,202.01, according to the Laurens County Public Index.
The Dec. 21 guilty plea in Laurens County Criminal Court was accepted by Judge Frank Addy. Neal, 55, of 103 East Bluford St., Clinton, was arrested on a second offense DUI charge by the Clinton Police Department. Her guilty plea was to "Driving Under the Influence, less than .10, first offense.”
Her sentence was time served - one night in jail - and a $400 fine. Her payments of the fine and court costs start Jan. 15, 2019. Her attorney is John R. Ferguson, of Laurens.
Neal was elected to the Clinton City Council in 2017.
Records show her first DUI conviction was in 2013, and she successfully completed a required alcohol awareness class (driving suspension ended Jan. 25, 2014).
Neal was released on the most recent charge after posting $10,000 bond by Leesa Inabinet, Laurens County chief magistrate. She likely will not face discipline.
She refused a Breathalyzer and other forms of alcohol testing, according to written reports. The City of Clinton refused to release the body cam footage from the arresting officer.
“You’ve got the biggest catch,” Neal told the arresting officer, Lt. Catherine Anderson. “It’s bad for the city for you to do this right now.”
For a second offense DUI, a suspect faces a fine of not less than $2,100 nor more than $5,100, and imprisonment for not less than five days nor more than one year. There are different fines and jail terms based on a suspect’s alcohol consumption; these did not apply to Neal as she refused breath, blood and urine tests, and stopped cooperating with field sobriety tests, according to Anderson’s written statement.
The arrest took place at North Sloan St. and West Pitts St, in Clinton, at 10:32 p.m. on Nov. 17, according to a Clinton Public Safety Incident Report, released to The Chronicle on a FOIA request. The newspaper paid a city-required $3 fee to obtain documents (but not the also-requested body cam footage) about Neal’s case.
She refused to sign an Advisement of Implied Consent Rights form, a Breath Alcohol Analysis Test Report form, and a SC DMV Notice of Suspension form.
She did sign a bail form and an “information regarding your rights” form while in custody at the Johnson Detention Center.
Neal can be suspended, or removed from office, only by order of the governor. Her seat is not up for election in the March 5 Clinton Municipal Elections. A magistrate’s form says Neal is employed by the Greenville Health System (Laurens).
Officers’ body cam video is not a public document, under the SC Freedom of Information Act, according to Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association. The city is free to release this footage to the news media if it chooses to do so, Rogers said. The city cited “compliance with SC Code of Laws 23-1-240(G)(1)” in denying The Clinton Chronicle’s FOIA request to obtain a copy of the body cam footage from Anderson’s uniform, and from three other officers responding to the Neal arrest scene.
“You know me,” Neal said to Anderson, according to a written incident report.
She at first presented a credit card when asked for her driver’s license, Anderson’s report said. A report by Officer Brian Beaman said, “While waiting the observation period Neal asked me, ‘do you know who I am,’ which I replied ‘yes’ and she stated ‘who’. I then advised her that I knew she was a member of Clinton City Counsel (sic). The observation period ended, and I gave Neal a chance to provide a breath sample and she again refused and stated that this was entrapment … Neal kept making comments that this officer took as she was trying to state she was racially profiled (see SLED Datamaster video). I advised Neal that race did not have anything to do with the case and she uttered something under her breath.”
Beaman wrote that he advised Neal her license would be suspended for six months.