In South Carolina, law enforcement uses DUI checkpoints, or roadblocks, to apprehend motorists who are driving under the influence, and also to uncover license and insurance violations, drug offenses, and to identify those who have warrants out for their arrest. Police officers must follow specific criteria to set up a checkpoint. Failure of police to follow these criteria can result in the loss of the ability to use the evidence at trial, which could help you beat your DUI case.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?
DUI checkpoints are legal in South Carolina. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. When police officers stop your vehicle, it is considered a “seizure” since you have to pull over and cannot leave without permission. Although police officers normally must have probable cause to stop a vehicle, DUI checkpoints do not require probable cause if certain criteria are followed by the police.
Police Criteria for Setting Up a DUI Checkpoint
The checkpoint must be a valid reason for the checkpoint’s time and place, such as an increased DUI rate in a certain area.
The checkpoint must have supervisory law enforcement approval and oversight. This means that police officers can’t set up a checkpoint wherever or whenever they feel like it. The checkpoint and its location and procedures must be approved ahead of time, and a supervising officer must be present.
Police officers at the checkpoint must be in uniform.
Law enforcement must publicize the date and location of the checkpoint.
Police Requirements for Conducting a DUI Checkpoint
Vehicles must be stopped in a predictable sequence or pattern, such as stopping every third car.
The checkpoint must be safe and identifiable.
The stop of your vehicle must be brief.
The checkpoint must have documented results of its effectiveness. In criminal cases involving a DUI arrest at a checkpoint, the prosecution must present evidence that the checkpoint “served the public’s interest”, by showing the checkpoint resulted in uncovering traffic violations or criminal violations.
What to Do If You’re Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint
There is a chance your vehicle will not be selected for screening. However, if your vehicle is selected, you should be prepared to speak with the police.
Be respectful. Law enforcement is just doing their job. Disrupting the checkpoint will only make the screening take longer. If you must decline a request by a police officer, do so politely.
Right to remain silent. If a police officer asks you a question that could incriminate you, tell the police officer you are invoking your right to remain silent.
Cooperate. If a police officer asks for your information or for you to step out of the vehicle, you should cooperate. If asked to perform a sobriety test, you have the right to refuse, but your license will be suspended.
Vehicle search. If a police officer asks if he can search your vehicle, you have the right to say no.
Arrest. If arrested, you have the right to remain silent, and the right to contact your attorney or ask for an attorney to be provided to you. You do not have to answer any questions until you speak with your attorney.
If You are Facing a DUI Charge in the Columbia Area, Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you were arrested with a DUI charge from a DUI checkpoint in the Columbia area, you could be facing criminal penalties if found guilty. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you guide you through the legal process and get you the best result based on the facts of your case. Contact The Law Offices of Lori S. Murray today to discuss your legal options. Please call our office at 803-779-4472 or schedule a consultation online.