Checkpoints are a common tool used by the law enforcement agencies to apprehend drivers who are found driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. A police officer must have sufficient cause or reason to stop a DUI driver. This is often not possible without first observing a driver at a close range. Checkpoints, also known as roadblocks, offer this opportunity. At a checkpoint, a police officer may observe you closely, ask you to slow down, stop, or answer certain questions. If the officer suspects you of being drunk, you may be asked to exit the car and undergo DUI tests. It is fairly common for the police to intercept DUI drivers at such checkpoints. Here we will discuss some DUI checkpoint laws in South Carolina.
The Legality of DUI Checkpoints
The legality of checkpoints is an ongoing debate in the legal sphere. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a number of individual rights. Among these is the vital right of individuals to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. Technically, a checkpoint is an example of a seizure. So the police or the government is responsible for showing that the checkpoint was reasonable.
The legality of a DUI checkpoint is often used in the defense of a DUI charge. If you were charged with DUI at a checkpoint, your attorney can claim that the checkpoint wasn’t legal or reasonable. The proof of burden then lies with the prosecution to show that this was legal. A court will typically consider a number of factors to determine whether or not a checkpoint was reasonable.
Legal Requirements for a DUI Checkpoint
For a checkpoint to be legal, it must meet a number of requirements. The first and the most important requirement is that the checkpoint addresses an issue of public interest. For instance, if the DUI crash statistics of an area are above-average, police may argue that checkpoints may help mitigate the accidents. This can be used as a pretext to set up the DUI checkpoint in the area.
In a DUI case, the prosecution may also be required to demonstrate that a DUI checkpoint was effective and served the public’s interest. If the statistics or facts contradict this, it may jeopardize the legality of the checkpoint. A qualified DUI attorney in Spartanburg, SC can create a solid DUI defense on this point.
Once there is a sufficient pretext, the law enforcement agency must have proper supervisory approval before setting up the checkpoint. The date and location of the checkpoint itself must also be announced to the public well in advance, which means that surprise roadblocks are not permitted. Checkpoints must also be fixed and proper procedures must be defined to govern how motorists will be stopped and what the encounter between police officers and motorists will entail.
DUI Roadblocks and Individual Privacy
Another important aspect of a roadblock is the invasion of an individual’s privacy. Such an invasion is essentially a violation of the Fourth Amendment but it is allowed by balancing it against public interest. However, DUI checkpoint laws still require a checkpoint to invade as little of an individual’s privacy as possible and without any discrimination. This means that police officers can’t stop the cars at random. Instead, they must use a predictable pattern to stop the vehicles, such as by stopping every second or third vehicle.
So a checkpoint stop must be as brief as possible. As a driver, you can’t be detained at a checkpoint any longer than is absolutely necessary. Technically, you can even refuse to roll down your window and say anything to the law enforcement officers at a checkpoint, stating in writing that you would consult your attorney before doing so. While that is often not practical, officers at a checkpoint can’t detain you beyond a reasonable time period.
DUI checkpoint laws also permit police officers to detain a driver for a longer period at a checkpoint if there is ‘reasonable suspicion.’ For DUI arrests, such suspicion may arise out of smell of alcohol, open beer cans in the car, and slurred speech or uncoordinated gestures of the driver. ‘Reasonable suspicion’ is highly subjective, so a police officer may use personal discretion to make this call.
Contact The Bateman Firm for Questions About DUI Checkpoint Laws
If you were stopped at a checkpoint in Spartanburg and charged with DUI, you may be able to fight the charges successfully. Here at The Bateman Firm, our highly experienced DUI defense law firm in Spartanburg, SC can help you. We will first look into the legality of the checkpoint where you were stopped. If there are doubts about its legality, our attorneys will question the prosecution about it. Ultimately, we may be able to have the charges against you dropped or reduced. Contact us today to book a FREE consultation and meet with our attorneys at the earliest.