Law enforcement officers use sobriety or driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints across the country. Though it had been argued that checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them as constitutional. As a result, DUI checkpoints continue to be a tool the police force utilizes to prevent drunk drivers from causing unnecessary harm.
Going Through a Checkpoint
The 1990 Supreme Court case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz held that it is permissible for law enforcement officers to use DUI checkpoints. The Court held that the state had an interest in preventing drunk driving, that the use of checkpoints could reasonably advance that interest, and the level of intrusion on motorists was small because they were only stopped briefly. However, certain conditions must be met to use checkpoints, including the following:
Checkpoints must be overseen by a qualified, uniformed police officer
Vehicles must be stopped in a uniform pattern, such as every third car
Warning must be provided by the agency conducting the checkpoint to allow motorists to safely come to a stop
There must be some basis for choosing the location of the checkpoint
DUI checkpoints are usually conducted late at night or very early in the morning, as this is the most likely time to find intoxicated drivers. Due to the fact that vehicles are stopped in a way that is uniformly random, it is possible that you will simply be waived through the checkpoint. However, if you are stopped, a police officer will ask you some questions while observing your behavior for any signs that you may be intoxicated. It is important to note that you do not have to answer the officer’s questions if you want to invoke your right to remain silent.
If the officer believes that you have been drinking or are intoxicated, he or she will direct you to a separate screening area. The separate screening area is simply a safe place that is out of the way of traffic. It is very likely that you will be asked to submit to one or more field sobriety tests. If you pass the tests, you will be free to leave. However, if you fail the tests, you will be arrested and asked to submit to a breath test. It is important to note that you do not have to submit to the breath test. However, refusing will have consequences under South Carolina’s implied consent law. Penalties include a six-month suspension of your license. Additionally, the penalties associated with refusing the breath test are enforced regardless of whether you are subsequently convicted of DUI.
Help with DUI Charge
It is important to never drink and drive. Yet, we understand that it does happen. If you have and were arrested for DUI, you face the potential for significant consequences. As a result, it is critical to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Surasky Law Firm we look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can help protect your rights.