Happy hour went into overtime, but you played it cool, limiting the rounds and mixing in some appetizers to help soak up the alcohol. Sober and confident enough to get behind the wheel for the short drive home. A half-mile from your front door, police set up a checkpoint to stop traffic and question motorists about their whereabouts and destination.
Suddenly, you have crucial decisions to make, which may simply inconvenience your commute or put you in the officer’s crosshairs for driving under the influence. Knowing what governs South Carolina checkpoints may determine whether you lose your freedom and driver’s license or avoid arrest by exercising constitutional rights to remain silent, refuse field-sobriety tests and call an attorney.
How to pass through without problems
It is illegal in South Carolina to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. Patrol officers typically target motorists who speed, swerve or run red lights to initially stop and investigate them for possible impaired driving. The Palmetto State is among many that allow police roadblocks at specified locations to randomly stop motorists and help identify drunk drivers.
Authorities must notify the public when and where they are deploying checkpoints. The Supreme Court has ruled that such dragnets are “minimally intrusive” and do not violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Reducing drunk-driving crashes is a public safety priority that outweighs individual rights against being stopped. But that does not allow police to fish for evidence against innocent drivers.
Here are some tips to avoid suspicion and successfully pass through a DUI checkpoint:
- Can the booze: An open alcohol container is an open invitation for an officer to assume you’ve been drinking.
- Drive normally: Pumping the brakes, changing lanes or trying to make a U-turn out of the checkpoint will undoubtedly draw police attention.
- Be polite: Invoke your rights without arguing or antagonizing the officer, who might find other reasons to slap on the handcuffs.
- Acknowledge the risks: You do not have to perform field-sobriety tests or take a Breathalyzer. But South Carolina is an implied consent state, which warrants an automatic license suspension upon refusal.
Do not assume you are guilty because a Breathalyzer records your blood-alcohol content above the legal limit. False-positive tests are common. Your medication or diet can affect results. Police can improperly administer and preserve the results. Was the officer even certified to use the device?
Challenging the roadblocks
A DUI conviction can rob you of freedom, financial stability and driving privileges. Insurance premiums are sure to skyrocket. But you can challenge the reliability of tests to discredit the prosecution’s evidence and block them from being used against you in court.
An experienced criminal attorney can help you build a viable defense and provide alternatives to punitive penalties. Take a deep breath before letting the criminal justice system dictate your future.