A Guide To DUI Checkpoints In South Carolina

DUI Checkpoint Sign

At Drennan Law Firm, we frequently receive questions about DUI checkpoints. After first asking if these checkpoints are even legal, the conversation naturally turns to "what should I do if I encounter one and am asked to submit to sobriety tests?"

Below, we provide a general outline about DUI checkpoints in South Carolina. If you still have questions, or if you (or a family member or friend) have been arrested at one of these checkpoints, we encourage you to reach out to us to get additional answers and advice.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

It might seem like DUI checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because drivers can be stopped even if there is no evidence to suggest that they are under the influence. However, a 1990 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court authorized states to conduct checkpoints, so long as they adhere to a few basic rules:

  • All checkpoints must be overseen by a qualified, uniformed law enforcement officer.
  • Law enforcement must stop cars in a predictable pattern, for example by pulling over every third or fourth vehicle.
  • The agency conducting the checkpoint must also provide sufficient warning to allow motorists to stop at the checkpoint safely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that in addition to meeting these criteria, law enforcement should alert media to the existence of checkpoints before they occur.

What To Expect And What To Do If You Are Stopped At A Checkpoint

DUI Officer

If your vehicle is stopped, a police officer or public safety volunteer will observe your behavior and ask you a few questions to determine whether you show signs of intoxication. If you do, you will be routed to a separate area for additional screening.

While there is a chance that your vehicle will not be selected for screening, you should prepare yourself to talk to the police. If you are stopped at a checkpoint, it is important to stay calm and to avoid any disruptive behavior.

At the screening area, law enforcement officers will likely conduct field sobriety tests. If they believe that you are under the influence of alcohol, you will likely be arrested and asked to submit to a breath test. It is important to understand that you do not have to agree to this test. There are penalties for refusal, however, including a potential six-month driver's license suspension. These penalties apply regardless of whether you are ultimately convicted of drunk driving.

It is also important to remember that you have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent during your encounter with the police. You do not have to answer any questions, especially those that might be incriminating.

If You Are Arrested

You should immediately ask to consult with an attorney and should inform the police that you will not be answering any questions without your attorney present.