Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in South Carolina?

While they are controversial, DUI checkpoints are legal in South Carolina.

Shealey Law Firm explains what you need to know about DUI checkpoints in South Carolina.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

DUI checkpoints are legal if they are conducted properly. In Department of State Police v. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are lawful if they balance the interest in preventing drunk driving accidents and the intrusion of individual rights. While legal in general, the legality of a specific checkpoint depends on how it is conducted.

Lawyer for DUI at a checkpoint

If you received a DUI at a checkpoint, contact Shealey Law Firm to review your case. If the checkpoint was conducted unlawfully, the evidence collected may be thrown out by the court.

We are lawyers for all kinds of DUI cases, including if you are arrested at a checkpoint. Contact us for a case review.

Does South Carolina Have DUI Checkpoints?

  • Yes, South Carolina has DUI checkpoints.
  • While they are controversial, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that they are lawful, if conducted properly.
  • To be conducted properly, a DUI checkpoint must balance the interest in preventing DUI accidents with the individual’s right to be free from unreasonable search.
  • The legality of a DUI checkpoint depends on several factors, such as how long people are detained and whether a uniform procedure is used to screen drivers.

South Carolina Checkpoint Statutes

South Carolina doesn’t have a statute that directly authorizes or prohibits DUI checkpoints. The law is silent on the issue. However, there are a few laws and cases that concern checkpoints.

South Carolina statutes

S.C. Code § 56-5-6540: Discusses checkpoints in the context of seatbelt enforcement, saying that law enforcement may not issue seatbelt citations in conjunction with a checkpoint, except when the driver is cited for violating another motor vehicle law.

S.C. Code § 56-5-6525: Prohibits checkpoints for the primary purpose of seatbelts.

See S.C. Code Title 56 – Motor Vehicles, Chapter 5, Traffic on Highways

U.S. Constitution

Much of the question of the legality of DUI checkpoints surrounds the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects our right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

The Fourth Amendment doesn’t prohibit all searches, just searches that are unreasonable. The courts use a balancing test to determine if the imposition on drivers violates the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. case law – Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz

The most authoritative case discussing the legality of DUI checkpoints is Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).

This case concerned a sobriety checkpoint conducted by the Michigan State Police. The state police created guidelines for checkpoints, stopping all vehicles. Officers looked for signs of intoxication. If signs were present, they directed the driver for further investigation.

Only one checkpoint was conducted, lasting 75 minutes. The police checked 126 vehicles, delaying each vehicle for about 25 seconds. The checkpoint resulted in two detentions and one arrest.

The court upheld the legality of the DUI checkpoint, stating that a DUI checkpoint advances the public interest. They said that an arrest rate for drunk driving of around 1% of all motorists stopped is effective, justifying the method of law enforcement.

See also Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U. S. 593, 597 (1989) (holding that checkpoint stops are seizures as defined by the Fourth Amendment).

What is a DUI checkpoint?

A DUI checkpoint is when law enforcement stops traffic to check for drunk drivers. They look for signs of impairment or if a driver is over the .08% bodily alcohol content legal limit. If a driver shows signs of DUI, they may be arrested and charged.

What to do if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint

Know your rights and STFU!

If you see a DUI checkpoint:

  • Get your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready. Police officers often say that people are “fumbling” for their documents, so they don’t give them the opportunity.
  • Roll your window down enough to speak with the officer.
  • Maintain your right to keep silent. If they ask if you’ve had anything to drink or where you’re coming from, just politely say that you are declining to answer questions.
  • Refuse the breath test, if offered. There is an automatic license suspension for refusing to take a breath test, even if you’re not convicted of DUI. However, one of our lawyers can have you driving again lawfully usually within 24 hours by administratively challenging the suspension.
  • Involve an attorney immediately if anything happens.

If going through a DUI checkpoint results in anything—a drunk driving charge, another type of criminal charge, or police brutality—involve an attorney as soon as possible. We can work to protect your rights, hold law enforcement accountable, and fight for the justice that you deserve.

Did the police follow proper procedure at a roadblock or DUI checkpoint?

The police may have violated procedure at a roadblock or DUI checkpoint if the following occurred:

  • The police detain you for an unreasonable amount of time, without objective, articulable evidence that you violated a law.
  • They discriminate in how they conduct the checkpoint, such as based on race or gender.
  • You’re the victim of police brutality or unreasonable force.
  • An arrest occurs without probable cause.
  • Operations are conducted in a place that is not related to drunk driving and is chosen for an improper purpose.

Each DUI checkpoint is subject to judicial review. The police can create policies, but ultimately, a court can review what occurred to determine if it was legal. If you are detained in violation of your rights or if you are the victim of police brutality, you may have a legal recourse. A lawyer can represent you in your case.

What if the police violate your rights at a DUI checkpoint?

Remember that the conduct of the police at a DUI checkpoint is subject to judicial review. If the police violate your rights, the evidence against you may be suppressed and you may have a case for police misconduct. Just because DUI checkpoints are lawful doesn’t mean that the police can violate your rights.

If you have concerns with how you were treated at a checkpoint, contact our attorneys for a case review.

Contact an Experienced Columbia DUI Lawyer

We invite you to contact Shealey Law Firm to discuss your case. You can have an experienced Columbia DUI lawyer review your case and represent you. Our legal team represents people who have been charged with DUI at a checkpoint and those whose rights are violated at a checkpoint.

Call or message us now.


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