Law enforcement officers employ a variety of methods to apprehend motorists who are driving while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs (“DUI”) in South Carolina. A common approach for law enforcement is to establish vehicle checkpoints. These checkpoints, sometimes also referred to as “roadblocks,” can be a valuable tool for law enforcement because vehicles passing through the checkpoint during the established hours may be stopped, inquired of, and further investigated if warranted. Checkpoints not only result in arrests for DUI but also for license and insurance violations, narcotics offenses, and warrant arrests. Law enforcement officers cannot merely establish a checkpoint. South Carolina law requires the police to follow established procedures at the checkpoint. Failure to follow these rules can result in loss of evidence at trial. Rad S. Deaton is an aggressive and savvy North Charleston DUI defense attorney who knows how to use the law enforcement officer’s failure to follow established checkpoint procedures to help you beat your DUI case in North Charleston.
Challenging DUI Checkpoints in South Carolina
If you are stopped and arrested for DUI at a checkpoint in South Carolina, you can challenge the legality of the checkpoint. Law enforcement must prove the checkpoint at which you were arrested for DUI meets constitutional requirements. At the outset, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution mandates that people be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Stopping a driver at a checkpoint is a seizure. Therefore, the government must prove that stopping motorists at a checkpoint is constitutional, or “reasonable.” Any evidence seized during the checkpoint, including any alcohol testing, field sobriety tests, and observations, must be suppressed, or excluded from use at trial, if the government fails to meet its burden.
The reasonableness of a traffic checkpoint is determined by balancing three important concerns. The court must balance the significant public interest addressed by the checkpoint and whether the checkpoint advances that public interest with the invasion of privacy that a checkpoint necessarily entails. The United States Supreme Court has recognized drunken driving detection, license and registration checks, and immigration checkpoints as valid reasons to establish a checkpoint. Stopping motorists at checkpoints to inquire into these valid public interests must be limited in time and the investigation go no further than the initial encounter, at first.
The government must prove that checkpoints are effective in addressing the public interest. In other words, there must be some objective reason to set up a checkpoint. The government may offer empirical data proving the effectiveness of checkpoints detecting drivers who violate the law. However, in one case, anecdotal evidence was also been approved by South Carolina’s courts as a reason to establish a checkpoint. In that case, the anecdotal evidence was based upon officers’ observations as well as complaints from the motoring public regarding motor vehicle infractions at a particular location. In addition to the anecdotal evidence, the government proved that this checkpoint resulted in detecting numerous violations of the criminal law, including arrests for DUI, drug offenses, and motor vehicle infractions cited.
Police must take great pains to ensure they are not intruding on a person’s life. That means the duration of the encounter must be limited for the checkpoint to be reasonable because the police are detaining a person without proof of any wrongdoing. Detention beyond the brief encounter must be accompanied by proof, called “reasonable suspicion,” that someone is committing, about to commit, or has recently committed a crime. Furthermore, the checkpoint cannot be a “roving” checkpoint. Rather, it must occur at a fixed position, with advanced notice to motorists to ensure their safety. Police must also follow established written policies in conducting the checkpoints. The written policies must evidence a plan and procedure as to how the officer will encounter the motorists, the purpose of the checkpoint, the duration of the checkpoint, and the time of the checkpoint. All of these factors weigh heavily on whether the intrusion upon a motorist is limited in scope. If the government fails to prove the checkpoint encounter was limited in scope, then the checkpoint was invalid and any evidence seized must be suppressed.
Experienced North Charleston DUI Attorney Ready To Fight For You
If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUI in the North Charleston, South Carolina area, choose Rad S. Deaton, an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney, to fight for you. Attorney Deaton will vigorously defend your case and fight for your rights. Call Attorney Rad S. Deaton, Esq. of the Deaton Law Firm, LLC today at 843-225-5723, or 843-557-6852 after hours, to schedule your free consultation and learn how Attorney Deaton will fight for you.