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There are consequences to refusing a chemical test during a stop

Understanding your rights under the law is important any time you find yourself interacting with law enforcement. While police may not overtly violate your rights, they often attempt to convince you to waive them. This can make the process of working with law enforcement during a traffic stop difficult. While you don't want to seem contentious or combative, you also don't want to waive your rights or get yourself into unnecessary trouble.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. That can mean you have the right to refuse a search of your home or your vehicle. During a traffic stop, that can also mean refusing to comply with law enforcement's request for a chemical test to look for alcohol. However, it is important to understand that while law enforcement cannot compel you to perform the test, refusing it will still have consequences.

Driving is a privilege, not a right

Your ability to legally drive a motor vehicle on public roads is not a protected right. Instead, it is a privilege reserved for those who demonstrate an understanding of traffic laws and proper control of a motor vehicle during licensing testing. Those who secure a license must continue to comply with state traffic laws in order to maintain that license and the ability to legally drive.

Drunk or impaired driving remains a major source of property damage, personal injury and even death in South Carolina and across the country. Law enforcement may take steps to protect the public from impaired drivers, including performing traffic stops when a driver appears to drive poorly. If that driver fails a field sobriety test, the officer will likely request a breath test to check for alcohol. Refusing will likely result in arrest and the suspension of your license.

All South Carolina drivers have given implied consent

The law in South Carolina on chemical testing is quite clear. Anyone who operates a vehicle on roads within the state has already given implied consent to chemical testing of breath, blood and/or urine for alcohol and other drugs that cause impairment. The law does not compel drivers to provide a sample, but instead creates a penalty for refusing.

Most cases result in a six month suspension for the driver's license. He or she may end the suspension early by agreeing to participate in the state's Ignition Interlock Device Program.

It's also important to understand that law enforcement can use your refusal to submit to testing as evidence in any criminal proceedings regarding impaired driving from that traffic stop. While refusing may prevent the state from gathering chemical evidence, it won't necessarily protect you from a conviction.

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