When you are behind the wheel and encounter a DUI checkpoint, do you know what to do? Maybe it's a holiday weekend and police are out in force, stopping every car and looking for evidence of driving under the influence. You just came from a party and had a few drinks. Now what?
If you know your rights under the South Carolina DUI laws, then you will be able to make the right decision when encountering a DUI checkpoint. And the right decisions begin with the right attorney.
Attorney Matt Bodman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of people facing such charges in the Columbia area and throughout South Carolina. A former assistant solicitor, he fully understands the law and knows your rights - and he'll fight to protect them.
Attorney Bodman also knows many of the mistakes people make in drunk driving cases. That's why he wants to share his knowledge with you. Everyone makes mistakes. But that doesn't mean you should have to pay the consequences for years or perhaps even the rest of your life. Here's some information you should know.
What will first happen at a DUI checkpoint?
Police will direct you to pull over and then check your license and registration to make sure they are valid. They will ask you where you came from and where you are going. These questions give them time to assess how you are speaking and determine if you have any signs of intoxication such as glassy eyes, slurred speech or a smell of alcohol. If they see any of these signs they will ask you to step outside your vehicle to do some tests. But should you?
Field sobriety tests - yes or no?
Many people think they have no choice in this matter, but they do. You do not have to agree to take any field sobriety tests.
However, if you say "no" you can face tough consequences, mainly that you could be arrested on the spot. In South Carolina, if you are lawfully arrested by a police officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been drinking and driving, he or she can test your blood, breath and urine. Refusing to test also carries with it a mandatory license suspension.
But just because you were arrested after refusing to take such a test, don't automatically assume that you will be convicted of drunk driving. An experienced attorney can challenge the arrest and take steps to help you get your license back as soon as possible.
If you say yes
If you agree to take the tests, you should understand that they are designed to allow police to gather evidence that could lead to you being charged and convicted with a DUI. And to make matters worse, some police officers don't fully explain your rights. That's why it's so easy for many drivers to make mistakes that result in being charged. But if you do agree to take the tests, you have certain rights that go along with them.
First, you have the right to be videotaped. That means the officer needs to turn on a video camera, tell you your rights and penalties if you refuse to be tested, and give you those rights and penalties in writing as well.
In addition to giving you your rights under the DUI laws, the officer must give you your Miranda rights. Those should be videotaped as well.
What are the tests?
- Walk the line and turn test - This is the most common test. You will be asked to walk heel to toe in a straight line while you count out loud, then turn and walk back to the officer in the same manner. Police are looking to assess your balance and coordination, as they are affected by alcohol and other drugs. However, many sober people fail this test because of medical or orthopedic conditions. The officer should ask you if you have any physical limitations that would prevent you from completing this test. If the officer does not before you start the test, you should tell him/her of any physical problems you have or medications you take that may affect your balance. Try to make sure your answer is videotaped.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test - This test involves a police officer moving a pen or a finger back and forth in front of your face to see if your eyes can follow the object without moving your head. Persons under the influence often easily fail this test. However, perfectly sober drivers may also fail this test due to poor eyesight or other factors such as glaring sunlight or a flashlight. This test should also be videotaped and your attorney can challenge the results.
- One leg stand - In this test, the person must stand on one leg and hold the other leg in the air a few inches off the ground for 30 seconds while counting. Many sober adults cannot complete this test, due to physical complications. Experienced attorneys such as Attorney Bodman know how to challenge this test.
We understand how confusing and overwhelming DUI charges can be. That's why we want to help. Contact Attorney Bodman as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case.