South Carolina allows law enforcement officers to stop drivers of motor vehicles at checkpoints or roadblocks for very limited purposes such as to verify that you have a driver’s license, that your vehicle is registered, and that you are carrying automobile insurance. Law enforcement officers may also establish checkpoints in order to see if drivers are under the influence of or impaired by alcohol or drugs. However, it is important to note that if you have been arrested and charged with DUI as the result of a checkpoint or roadblock, the State must be able to prove that the checkpoint or roadblock did not violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. While a checkpoint is essentially the same as a seizure, checkpoints are considered legal so long as they are brief and meet certain requirements. In order for a checkpoint or roadblock to be legal in South Carolina, law enforcement must meet the following:
- Law enforcement officers should have a valid excuse or reason for the roadblock or checkpoint. For example, if DUIs are more prevalent in a certain area, law enforcement may choose to set up a checkpoint in that location.
- Law enforcement supervisors must approve of the establishment of a checkpoint, including where it is located, and how law enforcement officers will proceed with the operation of the checkpoint. In addition, checkpoints and roadblocks must be overseen or supervised by a qualified and uniformed officer.
- Law enforcement must publicize, or alert the media of the date and location of any checkpoints or roadblocks.
- During the checkpoint, law enforcement officers cannot just stop vehicles at random; rather, they must predictably stop vehicles, or stop them according to a certain protocol, such as stopping every second, third, or fourth vehicle.
- The checkpoint site must be easily identifiable, providing adequate warning to drivers, and must be conducted in a safe manner.
- Law enforcement officers should not hold drivers any longer than needed to investigate whether you have a driver’s license or have been driving under the influence.
- The checkpoint must serve the public interest, or have proven success in identifying traffic and criminal violations.
If you ever are stopped at a roadblock or checkpoint, be sure to remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement officers. The officer may ask you some questions and observe your behavior to determine if you have been driving under the influence; however, remember that you have a right to remain silent if the officer starts to ask you questions, especially if they are of an incriminating nature. If you or loved one has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence as the result of a law enforcement checkpoint or roadblock in South Carolina, it is important that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A DUI charge should not be taken lightly as a conviction can result in lengthy jail sentences, hefty fines, and other penalties. Consulting with a seasoned and experienced attorney right away is imperative, especially if the checkpoint or roadblock was not conducted according to law because it is possible that your charges may be dropped if the court finds your arrest was illegal. The Myrtle Beach DUI attorneys at Harwell Law Firm, P.A., can review the facts and evidence in your DUI case, advise you of your rights and responsibilities under the law, discuss your options, and help you determine the best strategy for fighting your driving under the influence charge.