Although law enforcement agencies throughout the United States have utilized sobriety checkpoints for a number of years, many believe that this method of catching drunk drivers has authorized a significant infringement on drivers' constitutional rights. According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, all citizens are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. This means that a police officer must have probable cause to conduct an initial traffic stop—whether due to an obvious traffic violation or a reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. Since scheduled DUI checkpoints require all passersby to participate as they drive through, however, there has been much controversy of the legality of these roadblocks.
Even so, the U.S. Supreme Court made an exception to the Constitution in the case Michigan v. Sitz when they ruled that "sobriety checkpoints are justified because the state's interest in reducing drunk driving outweighs the minor infringement on an individual's rights"—according to Chief Justice Rehnquist. While eleven states have decided not to abide by this decision, effectively banning the use of sobriety checkpoints, South Carolina was not one of them. Law enforcement agencies in the state continue to conduct scheduled DUI roadblocks in an effort to limit the amount of alcohol-related accidents, but that does not mean that these cases always hold up in court. In order to uphold the "constitutionality" of these stops, they must:
- Publicly notify the public of an upcoming checkpoint
- Set up a specific plan for stopping vehicles (i.e. every other car)
- Provide a valid reason for setting up a DUI checkpoint
- Take safety into consideration when choosing a location
It is also important to keep in mind that you do not have to say a word when passing through a checkpoint. If a police officer asks you if you have been drinking, you can politely decline to answer. If they ask you to participate in a series of field sobriety tests, you can exercise your right not to. They may try to goad you into answering or even retaliate against you for being uncooperative, so it is imperative that you understand your rights. The only way that they can issue a legitimate arrest is if they have recognized obvious signs of intoxication—which may include the smell of alcohol on your breath or an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you avoid saying anything and/or acting in a manner that would give them a reason to detain you.
If you have already been arrested for drunk driving after passing through a DUI checkpoint in South Carolina, you should waste no time in contacting the Lexington criminal attorney at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC. We will be able to review the circumstances of your arrest and conduct an investigation into the constitutionality of the roadblock at which you were detained. If we discover that your rights have been violated in any way, our firm will work diligently to ensure that this injustice is brought to the attention of the court. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you take action in the interest of your defense as soon as possible. All you have to do is pick up the phone and
call our office at (888) 301-6004 to get started; a live operator will be there to answer all of your questions.
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