Lexington, SC - Joseph Edward Swearingen, III of Lexington County pled guilty Tuesday to Felony Driving Under the Influence with Great Bodily Injury and Possession of Cocaine Second Offense. Swearingen received the maximum sentence of 15-years on the Felony DUI charge and four years of probation on the Possession of Cocaine charge. There were no plea negotiations in this case.
Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard commented, “This individual’s conscious decision to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence forever altered the life of Megan Diffee. Mrs. Diffee will never be the same person she was before this incident occurred, but we hope that this sentence has brought closure to her and her family. Today’s sentence will hopefully prevent others from making such a poor choice to drive while impaired.”
On the morning of May 5th, 2018, Diffee was driving on US Highway 1 toward Lexington when Swearingen crossed the center median hitting her head on. The rear of her vehicle rose of the road throwing her forward shattering her legs. The vehicle behind Diffee hit her vehicle as well. Her husband of eight years, Brandon, was traveling close behind her and witnessed the head-on collision. He ran to his wife and held her until first responders arrived. He had a bystander call 911. One caller told a dispatcher the, “driver was driving on the wrong side of the road,” and, “they just killed this person.” Witnesses believed she was dead or dying. Brandon was able to tell witnesses that “she’s alive” and said “she’s barely breathing.”
Several witnesses to the accident described to law enforcement how Swearingen was traveling at a high rate of speed in the center median just prior to the collision. Diffee was traveling in the slow lane. She was transported to the trauma unit at Palmetto Health Richland due to her life-threatening injuries. Swearingen was transported to Lexington Medical Center for treatment for his injuries.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol responded to the scene and investigated the case. Troopers described Swearingen as disoriented with slurred speech and droopy eyes. At the hospital, cocaine was found in Swearingen’s pocket. Troopers had a blood sample drawn from Swearingen which proved he was under the influence of Cocaine, Marijuana, and Xanax. All the evidence confirmed Swearingen was responsible for the collision and under the influence at the time.
Diffee was in the ICU for twenty-one days. She was later moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for inpatient physical therapy. She was there for 49 more days before beginning outpatient therapy. Her life will never be the same.
Swearingen has a prior 2016 drug conviction and reckless driving conviction from DUI Court in March of 2018. He also has an extensive driving record with multiple violations. He will be transported to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to begin immediately service of his prison sentence.