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DUI Checkpoints and Your Job: What You Need To Know

It can happen to anyone: You have a few beers or drinks with some friends, and suddenly it's later than you planned and you've got to figure out how you'll get home. You think you're fine to drive, and you're going down the highway without any issues. Suddenly, you see flashing lights ahead of you - it's a DUI checkpoint.

You know you're not drunk, but you start to sweat and get nervous about what the cops will think about you driving with any alcohol in your system. Your mind starts racing with questions. "Are they going to find ways to say that I'm close to the limit?" "What if they make me walk the line or touch my fingers to my nose?"

Then, it hits you, the only question that really matters other than "am I going to jail?": "Will I lose my job because of this DUI checkpoint?"

It's possible, and more likely than it's ever been before.

More DUI enforcement than ever before

Unfortunately, the situation described above is increasingly common in South Carolina. If you feel like you've seen more police officers and state troopers than ever before, you're right. Why the increase? It's simple: South Carolina was embarrassed by how poorly it performed in some safety studies. The state was said to have the "most dangerous highways" in a 2012 survey and was in the "top 5 for DUIs" in a 2016 study.

This survey embarrassed a lot of people who need to get re-elected, and they need to make sure it looks like they're doing something productive. The result has police out in force every day of the week and DUI checkpoints popping up somewhere in the state every weekend (and some weekdays).

Will a DUI arrest get you fired?

If you get caught up in South Carolina's efforts to prove it doesn't have dangerous roads and you're sentenced to jail time (up to 30 days for a first offense, up to one year for second offense), it's likely that you will lose your job. After all, why would an employer keep you on the job if you suddenly need to be out for a month or more due to a criminal conviction?

Things can get tricky even if you don't have to serve jail time. If convicted, you will also lose your driver's license (six months for first offense, one year for second offense) whether or not you go to jail. Will you be able to get to work every day if you can't drive, or will you start to miss days here and there until it becomes a problem that your employer can't ignore?

If you're a commercial driver, you face an automatic one-year suspension even for first DUIs. If you can't get to work or don't have a required license to perform your job, it's likely that you will face termination.

How can you protect your job and your future after a DUI?

So, what should you do if you get caught in one of the checkpoints or traffic stops? Follow the helpful tips below to give yourself a strong chance of fighting potential DUI charges and protecting your job.

Tip 1: Don't pay the fine automatically. The prosecutor might present you with what seems to be a sweet deal: They'll reduce the charges if you accept responsibility and pay a fine. What they won't tell you is that this might not fix issues with your driver's license, and it's creating a criminal record that you possibly could avoid altogether.

Tip 2: Consult a lawyer before paying a fine or going to court. We're not giving a sales pitch - this truly can make the difference between moving forward with your life and having a DUI stay on your record and harm you for decades to come. An attorney can help you understand whether you have a chance to fight the charges, whether you have to agree with the charges but get the penalties lowered and your record cleared, or whether you have any other options available to you. An attorney can also help you understand whether you can get your driver's license back and how you can clear your record in the future (a process called expungement).

Tip 3: Stay out of trouble. While your case is being resolved, make sure that you keep your nose clean. It can be tough to do this if your group of friends is going to bar or even hanging out and watching a football game, but you need to stay out of trouble or it will make things even worse for your DUI case. Until you're in the clear, be sure you have a designated driver if you're going to have some drinks, and try to avoid situations that tempt you to go overboard with drinking.

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