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South Carolina DUI Checkpoints: All You Need to Know (2024)

South Carolina DUI Checkpoints: All You Need to Know (2024)
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

DUI checkpoints are a controversial practice. To many people, they seem like a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Supreme Court, though, has ruled otherwise, so long as checkpoints meet certain requirements. If you are arrested and charged at a DUI checkpoint, a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina DUI attorney may be able to help you avoid the worst of the penalties, get the charges dismissed, or defend against them in court.

DUI Checkpoints

When you come to a DUI checkpoint, officers will be pulling aside vehicles according to a particular pattern. If you are selected to be screened, then you will have a conversation with the police. They will ask a few questions and look for anything that could indicate intoxication. If they have any reason to suspect that you may be under the influence, they will send you to a designated area for further screening.

An officer will then likely perform a series of field sobriety tests to further see if there is reason to suspect that you’ve been drinking or may otherwise be intoxicated. Finally, you may be arrested and asked to take a breath test if they have good cause to believe that you are intoxicated.

Under South Carolina’s implied consent rules, you may be penalized for refusing to take the test, regardless of whether you are later convicted of a DUI. Still, there may be situations where you wish to avoid taking the test anyway and take the penalties. You should try to speak with a lawyer, if possible, before deciding.

South Carolina DUI Checkpoint Requirements

The United States Supreme Court has said that DUI checkpoints are legal if they meet certain criteria. South Carolina law, though, incorporates these requirements and adds a few additional requirements and clarifications as well. According to law, DUI checkpoints must obey the following rules:

  • They must be based on police policy regarding checkpoints. This must clarify the officer training for the procedure, the equipment used in the process, and media relations.
  • They should occur at a location that can be validated based on statistical evidence showing a high risk of DUI violations in that area.
  • Departments must have a plan that is implemented to ensure the safety of the checkpoint for officers and motorists.
  • All checkpoints must be visible as a police action.
  • A stop must include only brief contact with drivers unless there is reasonable suspicion of impairment.
  • Those suspected to be impaired must be directed to an area out of the flow of traffic for designated testing.
  • Checkpoints must include the presence of a supervisor.
  • Officers should not stop vehicles in a random manner but instead adhere to a specific pattern, such as every other vehicle, every third vehicle, or even each vehicle that passes through.

It’s absolutely critical that law enforcement follow every one of these requirements. Any failure to do so could invalidate any arrest that’s made. If you are arrested for DUI, it’s important to remember that you have a right to remain silent, and it’s advisable that you do so until a lawyer is present. Politely inform the police that you won’t be saying anything and would like to contact a lawyer.


Q: Are DUI Checkpoints Unconstitutional?

A: The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution shields Americans from illegal searches and seizures. Many people argue that DUI checkpoints seem to be a clear violation of this limitation placed on the government. However, the United States Supreme Court, in a 1990 ruling, stated otherwise and has allowed DUI checkpoints, so long as certain requirements are met. According to the Supreme Court, checkpoints must:

  • Be overseen by uniformed, qualified law enforcement.
  • Stop cars in a predictable pattern.
  • Provide sufficient warning of the checkpoint.

Q: Do I Have to Take a Breath Test If Asked?

A: If you choose not to take a breath test when requested to do so by law enforcement, it could be considered a violation of the law. Under South Carolina’s implied consent laws, drivers have consented to take a breath test upon request based on their use of the roads. Failure to do so could result in charges or penalties.

There still may be situations, though, where you could choose not to submit to the test, but be aware that there could be penalties regardless of whether you’re convicted. Also, you may still be convicted of a DUI without the breath test if the prosecution can give other evidence to sufficiently demonstrate intoxication.

Q: Can I Turn Around and Avoid a DUI Checkpoint?

A: If you realize that you are coming up to a DUI checkpoint, you can choose to turn around, so long as you do so legally. However, don’t be surprised if you are pulled over and questioned shortly after doing so, as law enforcement may consider this behavior to be suspicious.

Q: What Constitutes a DUI in South Carolina?

A: A DUI is most commonly associated with a person’s blood alcohol content, or BAC, being above a particular threshold. When this occurs, it’s considered a “per se DUI,” which means that a driver is guilty of a DUI regardless of whether the alcohol was causing any material impairment to their driving. However, that’s not the only behavior that can lead to charges. According to South Carolina law, a DUI is when:

  • A driver over the age of 21 has a BAC of .08% or greater.
  • A driver of a commercial vehicle has a BAC of .04% or greater.
  • A driver under the age of 21 has any level of detectable BAC.
  • A driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired because of any alcohol, drug, or intoxicant in their system.

Defending Against DUI Charges

DUI charges are a serious situation, and the penalties are significant. A conviction could result in fines, license suspension, and possibly even jail time. However, with the help of a South Carolina DUI attorney, you may be able to defend against the charges or avoid the harshest of the penalties.

At Axelrod & Associates, P.A., our experienced team is prepared to use every legal option in defense of our clients. If you’ve been charged with a DUI and need help defending against the charges, contact us today.

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