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Do sobriety checkpoints violate your basic civil rights?

The police officers working in South Carolina want to reduce the number of drunk driving crashes, which claim hundreds of lives each year, and they will often take drastic steps to enforce the law and keep the public safe.

So-called sobriety or DUI checkpoints are one of the more aggressive enforcement efforts that law enforcement officers routinely engage in to reduce impaired driving on the roads across South Carolina. Some people view such roadblocks or checkpoints as a violation of their civil rights.

These same people then believe that they can push back against any charges that result based solely on the fact that they were part of a checkpoint or roadblock. It is absolutely possible to defend against pending impaired driving charges, but attacking the validity of a DUI checkpoint will typically not be a successful strategy.

The Supreme Court already ruled that checkpoints don't violate your rights

A roadblock or checkpoint should allow officers to indiscriminately interact with everyone traveling through a certain section of the road. Officers have to get approval to conduct a checkpoint, and they must comply with state and federal regulations regarding how they interact with drivers.

They may briefly stop each vehicle and interact with the driver, verify the tags and license and escalate the investigation if they have reasonable suspicion of impairment or other violations of the law. Given that officers do not arrest everyone and because drivers give consent to impairment enforcement as part of the terms of licensing, South Carolina courts treat roadblocks or DUI checkpoints as a viable enforcement option.

You can turn around, but officers can use that to stop your vehicle

Generally speaking, you have the right to stop and redirect your vehicle if you notice a sobriety checkpoint ahead, provided that you comply with traffic laws as you do so. However, police officers can use your avoidance of the roadblock as reasonable suspicion to target you for an individual traffic stop, which could potentially still result in your arrest.

You may be able to build a defense on how an officer administered a field sobriety test. The improper calibration or use of a breath test machine could serve as a means of undermining the evidence used to bring impaired driving charges against you. However, the crux of your defense must focus on the facts, not on your feelings about the checkpoint itself.

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