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DUI Checkpoints in Lexington County: What Are Your Rights?

In Lexington County, DUI checkpoints are a routine part of law enforcement’s efforts to prevent drunk driving. However, these checkpoints also raise important questions about civil liberties and legal rights. This comprehensive guide explores your rights at DUI checkpoints, what to expect, and how to conduct yourself if you are stopped.

What is a DUI Checkpoint?

A DUI checkpoint, also known as a sobriety checkpoint, is a police operation where officers stop vehicles at a specific location to check drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. This method is intended to deter driving under the influence and to catch those who might be driving while impaired.

Legal Justification for Checkpoints

In South Carolina, the use of DUI checkpoints is upheld under state and federal law, provided they meet certain guidelines to ensure they are conducted fairly and legally. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the benefits of reducing drunk driving outweigh the intrusion of privacy, as long as checkpoints are carried out in a neutral, non-discriminatory manner.

Commonly Asked Question: “Are DUI checkpoints announced in advance?”

Yes, in South Carolina, the locations and times of DUI checkpoints are often announced beforehand through local media or police department social media channels. This transparency is intended to maximize deterrence and minimize claims of unfair surprise or targeting.

Your Rights at a Checkpoint

When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you retain several fundamental rights, which include:

1. Right to Remain Silent

You are not obligated to answer questions such as where you are going or coming from, or whether you have consumed alcohol. You can politely decline to answer by stating that you choose to exercise your right to remain silent.

2. Refusal to Perform Sobriety Tests

You may decline field sobriety tests and portable breath tests at the checkpoint. However, if you are arrested and taken into custody, under South Carolina’s implied consent laws, you are required to submit to a chemical breath, blood, or urine test. Failure to comply can lead to penalties like license suspension.

3. Consent to Search

Officers might ask for your permission to search your vehicle. You have the right to refuse this search unless the officer has a valid warrant or there are exigent circumstances that justify a search.

4. Right to Document

You can record the interaction with law enforcement as long as it does not hinder their operations.

Commonly Asked Question: “What if I refuse a sobriety test at a checkpoint?”

Refusing a sobriety test at the checkpoint might lead to further scrutiny, but it cannot be used as the sole basis for an arrest. However, if there is other evidence of impairment, such as erratic driving or visible intoxication, you may still be arrested.

What Happens During a DUI Checkpoint?

During a checkpoint, law enforcement will stop vehicles based on a preset formula, such as every third vehicle, to briefly check for signs of impairment. Here’s what typically happens:

  1. Initial Stop: A brief interaction where an officer will explain the purpose of the checkpoint and may ask for your license and registration.
  2. Observation: The officer will observe if there are any visible signs of impairment, such as slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.
  3. Sobriety Testing: If there are signs of impairment, you may be asked to step out of the vehicle for sobriety testing.

Commonly Asked Question: “Can I turn around to avoid a DUI checkpoint?”

Yes, you can legally turn around to avoid a checkpoint, provided you do so before reaching the stop and in a manner that does not violate traffic laws. However, police might have additional patrols in the area to monitor such actions.

If You’re Arrested for DUI at a Checkpoint

If you are arrested, it’s important to remember:

  • Remain Calm and Polite: Keep your interactions civil.
  • Invoke Your Rights: You may ask to speak to an attorney before answering any questions or consenting to any tests once you are in custody.
  • Legal Representation: Contacting an attorney who specializes in DUI defense can help protect your rights and potentially challenge the validity of the checkpoint or the arrest.


DUI checkpoints are a reality in Lexington County, and understanding your rights can make a significant difference in how you handle these encounters. Knowing what to expect and how to assert your rights respectfully can help you navigate these stops more confidently and with less stress.

For further guidance or if you face charges after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, contact Thompson and Hiller Defense Firm, who can offer tailored advice and representation based on the specifics of your case.