A common approach for law enforcement to apprehend motorists who are driving under the influence from alcohol or drugs (“DUI”) in the state of South Carolina is to establish vehicle checkpoints. These checkpoints, or “roadblocks,” not only result in arrests for DUI but also for license and insurance violations, narcotics offenses, and warrant arrests. However, the police cannot merely establish a checkpoint because South Carolina law requires the police to follow established procedures at the checkpoint. Failure to follow these specific procedures can result in loss of evidence at trial. DUI Attorney Trey Harrell is an aggressive Charleston DUI defense attorney who understands how to use the police officer’s failure to follow established checkpoint procedures to help you resolve your DUI case in Charleston or Mount Pleasant.
Challenging DUI Checkpoints in South Carolina:
The reasonableness of a traffic checkpoint is determined by balancing these 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 US Supreme Court has recognized drunken driving detection, license and registration checks, and immigration checkpoints as valid reasons to establish a checkpoint. Thus, 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.
- Law Enforcement must prove that checkpoints are effective in addressing the public interest, or that there was 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.
- 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 or a reasonable articulable suspicion, that someone is committing, about to commit, or has recently committed a crime. Additionally, the checkpoint must occur at a fixed position and cannot be a “roving” checkpoint.
- 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.
*About Attorney Trey Harrell: A former prosecutor and judicial law clerk, Trey Harrell defends clients against various criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, and fraud charges, as well as college students and juvenile crimes. Additionally, Attorney Trey Harrell also handles Federal and State investigations. He also represents individuals in Civil Matters including Auto Accidents, Wrongful Deaths and various Professional Licensing Defense cases. Trey Harrell is the owner of the Trey Harrell Law Office, LLC, located in Charleston, but serves clients across the Palmetto State.
**Please be aware that the use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Attorney Trey Harrell is not your attorney until agreed upon in writing. This website, along with any website to which we link, is designed for educational and informational purposes, not as legal advice. Each person’s legal matter is unique and requires the review of an attorney licensed in that person’s jurisdiction.