Often, people find themselves facing drunk driving charges as a result of being stopped at a DUI checkpoint. Although these types of checkpoints are legal, it's important to understand your rights and ensure you don't experience an unfair arrest or conviction. Our firm has compiled some useful information about sobriety checkpoints in South Carolina in case you encounter one in the future, or have been arrested for DUI from a checkpoint.
Authorities are within their right to set up sobriety checkpoints here in SC as long as they do it properly and within the guidelines of the law. If they fail to abide by these rules, any evidence collected and arrests made could be considered invalid. It's also worth noting that although DUI checkpoints are authorized here in South Carolina, there is no specific state authority upholding their legality. In some cases, checkpoint arrests can be open to challenge. Our attorneys can explain more.
Sobriety checkpoints, the Fourth Amendment and you
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides all citizens with the protection against unreasonable search and seizure. It may appear that DUI checkpoints violate that constitutional right. A few decades ago, a lawsuit that worked its way up to the United States Supreme Court alleged that sobriety checkpoints were a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
However, the Court ultimately ruled against the plaintiff, with Chief Justice Rehnquist writing, “This case poses the question whether a State's use of highway sobriety checkpoints violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. We hold that it does not, and therefore reverse the contrary holding of the Court of Appeals of Michigan.”
DUI checkpoints must follow protocol
According to an article in SCNow, law enforcement is required to follow a specific set of rules when setting up and running DUI checkpoints. These rules include:
- Authorities must have a valid reason for the checkpoint. For example, it must be in an area with a high number of DUI-related incidents in order for the checkpoint to be effective in reducing DUI accidents and arrests.
- Law enforcement must receive approval from supervisors. Before establishing a checkpoint, authorities must present the planned site and operational procedure to supervisors for approval.
- The DUI checkpoint must be publicized. Authorities are required to announce the location and date of any planned sobriety checkpoint to the public in advance.
- Vehicles must be stopped in a neutral formula. To prevent any type of discrimination, law enforcement must stop motorists in a predictable pattern – like pulling over every third or fourth vehicle instead of making random choices.
- Law enforcement must take proper safety precautions. When setting up a DUI checkpoint, authorities must ensure it's both easily identifiable and safe, with enough lighting and warning signs. Police are also required to be in uniform at all times with official vehicles. A checkpoint should be officially marked as such and should be used only to check for suspected DUI or driver's licenses.
- Motorists should not be unreasonably detained. There's no formal time limit on the length of a sobriety checkpoint. However, law enforcement should have procedures in place to ensure you are not detained longer than necessary. If you believe you were unreasonably detained, our attorneys can explain your rights.
At Holland Law, we aggressively fight for our clients. If you're facing DUI charges, get in touch with our office today so we can begin preparing your defense. We can help. To schedule a consultation in either our Fort Mill office on Gold Hill Road, or in our Rock Hill office on Oakland Avenue, please call 803-590-8170 or contact us. We serve clients in the York, Lancaster, and Chester County communities.