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Understanding DUI Checkpoints in South Carolina

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense with potentially severe consequences, and law enforcement agencies across South Carolina and the United States employ various strategies to address this issue. One such strategy is the implementation of DUI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints. These checkpoints are designed to identify and apprehend individuals operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

DUI checkpoints are legal in South Carolina, but their constitutionality is subject to certain conditions outlined by both federal and state laws. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that for DUI checkpoints to be constitutionally valid, certain rules must be followed: in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the Supreme Court held that the government’s interest in preventing drunk driving outweighs the intrusion posed by DUI checkpoints, as long as certain guidelines are followed.

While DUI checkpoints are legal, law enforcement agencies in Charleston and Columbia must follow operational guidelines to ensure their constitutionality. These guidelines help strike a balance between public safety and individual rights. Some key aspects include:

  • Decision-making authority. Law enforcement agencies must have clear policies and procedures governing the decision to conduct a DUI checkpoint. The decision-making process should consider factors such as historical data on DUI incidents, public safety concerns, and available resources.
  • Random selection of vehicles. Vehicles stopped at DUI checkpoints should be selected through a predetermined, random method, such as every third or fifth vehicle. This randomness is essential to avoid profiling or discrimination.
  • Advance public notice. Providing advanced notice of DUI checkpoints is required to inform the public and deter individuals from driving under the influence. The notice helps drivers make informed decisions and reduces the element of surprise.
  • Brief and non-intrusive stops. DUI checkpoints are designed to be brief and non-intrusive. Law enforcement officers should minimize the inconvenience to motorists while still effectively screening for potential DUI violations.
  • Use of sobriety tests. If a law enforcement officer at a DUI checkpoint has reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence, they may request the driver to perform field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary, and drivers have the right to refuse them.

What should I know about DUI checkpoints?

Understanding your rights at a DUI checkpoint helps you navigate the situation with confidence. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Identification and license. When approaching a DUI checkpoint, drivers are required to provide identification and/or their driver’s license. Cooperation with these basic requests is generally expected.
  • Refusal of field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line or standing on one leg, are often administered at DUI checkpoints. It’s important to note that these tests are voluntary, and drivers have the right to refuse them without immediate legal consequences.
  • Remaining calm and polite. When encountering law enforcement at a DUI checkpoint, it is advisable to maintain a calm and polite demeanor. Being cooperative without sacrificing one’s rights can help ease the interaction.

Were you arrested after a DUI checkpoint? Talk to our DUI defense attorney at The Law Offices of A. Randolph Hough today for help. From our Columbia and Charleston offices, we offer aggressive defense strategies for clients throughout South Carolina. To schedule a consultation, call our offices or fill out our contact form.