Councilman Goldfinch takes sobriety test
A charge against a Conway city councilman for driving under the influence this summer has been dismissed and he instead pleaded guilty to a traffic infraction.
William Goldfinch IV, 35, was arrested at 1 a.m. on June 4 after he was pulled over by the Highway Patrol on U.S. 17 near Church Street in Georgetown, according to police. Police said he failed a roadside sobriety test.
Goldfinch refused to take a Breathalyzer test and was released from jail hours later on a $992 bond, according to police records. It was his first charge of DUI, court records show.
The Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office said there was no plea deal, and that the details of the disposition of the case were worked out by the Highway Patrol.
A spokesman for the state patrol says the decision not to prosecute was made with the solicitor’s office.
Goldfinch said he doesn’t know how the charges were changed.
“I got a letter in the mail saying they were dismissing my charges, that’s all I know,” Goldfinch said. “I did not make a deal, I didn’t ever go to court.”
According to the affidavit and waiver filed in the Magistrate’s Court in Georgetown County on Sept. 6, the DUI charge was amended to “driving left of center.”
“I request that the court approve in my absence this plea agreement,” said the court document signed by Goldfinch and his lawyer, B. Alex Hyman.
Hyman did not return a call for comment.
“I know my rights and understand the penalties the court may impose upon me and I still wish to enter a plea or guilty to the pending/reduced charge(s) against me as follows: Amend to driving left of center with a fine of $150 and dismissal of the DUI,” the affidavit said.
Cpl. Sonny Collins with the highway patrol said the arresting trooper conferred with Jacqueline Smith in the solicitor’s office “about the evidence and what was there, and they made that decision about the prosecution and where that would go in the courts.”
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said that DUI cases do not come through his office unless a jury trial is requested.
Goldfinch originally requested a trial, but “at some point he waived a jury trial which took it out of our office,” Richardson said.
“The case was handled by the S.C. Highway Patrol, we didn’t have anything to to do with the case,” Richardson said.
Smith said she was not present for any kind of plea deal.
“I did not negotiate the case to that plea, that was Trooper (Trevor) Cannon’s offer, and I did talk with Trooper Cannon to confirm that was his offer,” Smith said.
Even though Goldfinch refused to take a Breathalyzer test, which calls for the automatic suspension of a South Carolina drivers’ license for six months, he still has his license.
Goldfinch said he appealed the suspension of his license and the court found in his favor.
“I’ve got my license, just like I’ve always had,” Goldfinch said.
Drivers in South Carolina must forfeit their license if they refuse to take a Breathalyzer or blood test to determine blood alcohol levels when stopped by a police officer, Richardson said.
“We are obligated to give that, and if we don’t give that we automatically lose our drivers license for six months whether we had drunk a thing or not,” Richardson said.
Goldfinch said he was not driving on the wrong side of the road, but that when he made a right turn onto U.S. 17, the driver’s side tire went over the line. “That’s why he initiated the traffic stop,” Goldfinch said.
“I was innocent and I was confident that would come out,” Goldfinch said. “I am grateful this is all behind us.”
Goldfinch has served on the Conway City Council since 2010. He is up for re-election on Nov. 7.