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Do you know why you're being arrested? A primer on DWI charges

Do you know your rights while being arrested at a traffic stop? South Carolina residents who are facing drunk driving charges may not fully understand the reasons that they are being arrested. The fact is that police officers can generally arrest suspected drunk drivers based on a variety of observations and legal requirements.

What is the definition of an "arrest?"

Most people think that arrests have to involve handcuffs or some other type of involuntary submission. The truth, though, is that you can be placed under arrest simply by an officer telling you that you are being arrested. You have the option to peaceably comply; in that instance, you may not have to be restrained with handcuffs or other options.

What are the different motivations for arresting someone suspected of DWI offenses?

Officers can arrest DWI defendants for a variety of reasons. First, the officer can arrest you if he or she personally witnesses a crime. In the event of a DWI, this could mean that the officer observes a breath test result that lies above the legal limit. You may be arrested if a police officer stops you for another type of traffic violation and notices that you may be intoxicated; in that case, the officer may administer a sobriety test. Officers can also arrest drivers if they have "probable cause" to suspect that criminal activity has occurred. The officer may notice empty beer bottles in the vehicle, for instance. Even if the driver is refusing a breath test, that person may be taken into custody if evidence for probable cause exists. Finally, officers may arrest you if a warrant is pending for your arrest.

How can you challenge an unlawful arrest?

Not every defendant who is arrested on suspicion of DWI is charged with a crime. In many cases, South Carolina police officers violate defendants' rights through unreasonable search and seizure proceedings. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help defendants determine whether they have been unlawfully arrested on DWI charges.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Arrest," accessed Aug. 17, 2015

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