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Is a DWI checkpoint legal?

You are driving along the roadway at night, and suddenly you see vehicles stopping ahead of you. The road up ahead is blocked off, meaning vehicles had to stop and speak with law enforcement at the blockade. When you reach officers, they ask you if you have been drinking. Officers decide to conduct a field sobriety test followed by a breath test. The results of these tests cause you to be arrested for drunk driving. This scenario, although emotional and overwhelming, occurs throughout South Carolina and other states across the nation.

When state and local law enforcement seeks to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, usually during a national holiday, checkpoints will be set up. While many have heard of these, most are unsure about the legality of them. Is a DUI checkpoint legal?

Because these checkpoints stop and question those who have and have not been drinking, many question whether this constitutes and unreasonable search and seizure. Although they may seem inconvenient and sometimes aggravating, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on this question, finding that these stops are not only legal but also a valid law enforcement technique to tackle drunk driving.

Nonetheless, it is still possible to challenge the legality of these stops following a DUI charge. To begin, these searches must be reasonable. This means that there must be probable cause. While vehicles are being stopped without any individualized suspicion, this type of seizure is minimally intrusive. However, if it is determined that they are overly burdensome or intrusive, this would not be considered reasonable. Thus, any evidence collected at this time could be removed.

Facing a DWI charge is not easy. Because there must be a legal stop for a motorist to be charged with a DUI, defendants should be aware of their defense options. Even when a checkpoint is used, there are factors that could beg to questions its legality. Challenging the legality of the stop could help a motorist face reduced charges or even have the charges completely dismissed.

Source: FindLaw, "Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?" accessed Feb. 18, 2018

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