Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in South Carolina?

DUI checkpoints are temporary, changing locations set up by police to keep intoxicated drivers off the roads. Also referred to as sobriety checkpoints, mobile checkpoints, license checkpoints, or simply roadblocks, police will stop cars that pass through the checkpoint to screen for suspicious drivers. But are DUI checkpoints legal in South Carolina?

What Is A DUI Checkpoint?

Drivers are required to show a valid license, vehicle registration, and proof of auto insurance. They are also screened for signs of inebriation. If a driver is suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, they will be asked to submit to field sobriety tests and/or a breathalyzer test.

DUI checkpoints are a common occurrence throughout most of the United States. However, random police checkpoints are illegal in more than a dozen states. Many believe the use of DUI checkpoints is unconstitutional, because they stop and detain drivers without the need to show probable cause.

Supreme Court Rulings on Sobriety Checkpoints

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that when police officers make a traffic stop, this constitutes a “seizure” protected under the Fourth Amendment, and the officers must be able to show probable cause for stopping the vehicle. However, in 1990, the Supreme Court also decided that highway sobriety checkpoints are constitutional because the “degree of intrusion” is not substantial enough to outweigh the state’s compelling interest in preventing drunk driving accidents and fatalities. Therefore, under federal law, sobriety checkpoints are not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

South Carolina Laws on DUI Checkpoints

There is no state law protecting or mandating the use of random police checkpoints in South Carolina. The courts in South Carolina have also left the issue unaddressed. However, license and DUI checkpoints are regularly utilized by police throughout the state. The checkpoints occur in multiple counties on a weekly basis, and are often, but not always, announced in advance.

What To Do If You Are Stopped By South Carolina Police

When stopped at a random police checkpoint, your actions will determine if the checkpoint becomes a minor slowdown or a huge headache. If you are detained at a South Carolina DUI checkpoint:

  • Remain calm. Acting panicked or hostile will only make you appear suspicious.
  • Be polite at all times (even if the officer is rude to you).
  • Remember your right to remain silent. You may want to inform the officer beforehand that you do not wish to answer any more questions.
  • Remember sobriety tests are voluntary. However, there may be penalties, including a six-month suspension of your driver’s license, if you refuse the tests.
  • Speak to an attorney. If you are stopped at a South Carolina roadblock and subsequently charged, hire a lawyer to explore possible defenses in your case.

Contact A DUI Attorney in Charleston, SC

If you are arrested for DUI or DUAC in South Carolina, reach out to a DUI defense lawyer right away. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is a serious offense, but there are options and possible defenses available to you. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at McCoy & Stokes, LLC can help you with your case. Contact us today to request a consultation.