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What Rights Do South Carolina Drivers Have At Drunk Driving Checkpoints?

Each year, numerous people across South Carolina are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. In fact, the state's Department of Public Safety reported that there were 18,675 DUI arrests in 2012 alone. Sometimes, these arrests come following stops at DUI checkpoints. In order to avoid incriminating themselves, it behooves motorists to understand what rights they have at these checkpoints.

Responding to questions

When law enforcement officers conduct sobriety checkpoints, the first thing they typically do is approach the stopped vehicles and ask the drivers some questions. Often, people answer these questions because they feel obligated to do so. However, that is not the case.

Motorists do not have to respond to questions in these situations. Rather, they may choose to leave their windows rolled up and abstain from speaking to law enforcement officers. Drivers may instead choose to present the authorities with a card stating they want to exercise their constitutional rights. This includes the right to consult with an attorney before speaking with law enforcement and the ability to continue on their way if they are not being placed under arrest.

Performing roadside tests

If law enforcement officers suspect that drivers have been drinking, they may ask them to perform roadside, or field sobriety, tests. They will use people's performance on these tests to help them ascertain whether they are intoxicated. When making their requests, the authorities may neglect to inform drivers of their rights. It is important for people to understand, however, that they do not have to perform these tests.

Even if drivers refuse to perform field sobriety tests, it does not guarantee that they will not be arrested for driving under the influence. Rather, it may only make it more difficult for the authorities to prove their case. If a motorist has not been drinking, performing these tests may help show law enforcement that they should be allowed to go on their way.

Submitting to breath tests

In order to determine a motorist's blood alcohol concentration, the authorities may ask him or her to submit to chemical testing. This includes breath, blood or urine tests. In general, people may refuse a preliminary breath test. However, once they have been placed under arrest, the state's implied consent law stipulates that they are required to comply.

The state's law applies to arrests that result from offenses, which are allegedly committed while people are driving under the influence. For example, a man is stopped for driving recklessly and the law enforcement officers suspect he has been drinking. He may be legally obligated to submit to a breath test. Failing to do so may lead to additional charges. The penalties people might face as a result of these charges may be imposed in addition to those that may be imposed for a DUI conviction.

Working with an attorney

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in South Carolina. Consequently, the penalties people face if convicted of DUI may have lasting implications on their personal and professional lives. Therefore, those who have been charged with driving under the influence may benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney may help them establish a criminal defense, which may include questioning whether their rights were violated at a DUI checkpoint.