Anyone in South Carolina can run into a sobriety checkpoint on any given day. The law enforcement officers set up these checkpoints to identify impaired drivers and prevent them from causing serious accidents. If you drive regularly, especially at night, chances are you’ll have to go through a checkpoint one day. Because of this, you must know what actions may put you in trouble during a sobriety stop, even if you are not driving under the influence.
Stopping at the checkpoint
Sobriety checkpoints require drivers traveling past the checkpoint to stop for a brief interaction with the police officers. The officers won’t stop every car that passes by, as they must stop the vehicles in a predictable pattern. If you encounter a checkpoint on the road, you can turn around if you don’t break any traffic laws by doing so. However, you must know that if the officers see you, they will think you have something to hide, in which case they will probably follow you and ask you to stop. For this reason, it’s always better to travel past the checkpoint.
Once you stop at the checkpoint, the law enforcement officers may ask you some questions. You can either answer them or exercise your right to remain silent. However, you must keep in mind that not answering may raise their suspicion. If you choose to respond, give them non-committed answers and act politely. You must also remain calm, as they will evaluate your responses to identify if you show signs of intoxication. If you get nervous, the police will suspect that you are driving under the influence. Once a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are doing something illegal, they are allowed to ask you to step out of the vehicle.
Field sobriety and chemical tests
The officer may ask you to step out of the car to perform a field sobriety test. It is not your obligation to perform this test, but if you refuse to do it the police may ask you to give a sample of your breath, urine or blood for a chemical test. There are no consequences for refusing a field sobriety test, but there are for refusing a chemical test. The South Carolina law states that any person driving in the state has given consent for the chemical tests, so refusing them has its penalties. Just by refusing the test, your license will be suspended for 6 months or 9 months if it is your second refusal. A third refusal would cause you to lose your driving privileges for 12 months. Ultimately, it would be in your best interests if you comply with the officer’s orders.
You must remember that losing your temper would only make things worse, even if you are not under the influence of a substance. Keep calm and answer their questions without making any statements. Usually, checkpoint stops are brief, but arguing with the officer can make you spend more time than necessary at the stop.