DUI Checkpoints on New Year’s Eve in Columbia
After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released their latest Traffic Safety Facts report showing clearly that drinking and driving is on the rise in South Carolina, the Highway Patrol announced new safety measures for this holiday season, the most important of them being several DUI checkpoints in Columbia.
Indeed, compared to 2015, when there were 979 car accident fatalities overall, and 307 DUI-related (31% of total), 2016 saw 1,015 fatalities overall, out of which 331 (33%) were DUI-related. The increase of 36 (3.7%) overall deaths and 24 (7.8%) DUI-related deaths prompted South Carolina authorities to act promptly and patrol the streets even on New Year’s Eve.
This has caused many drivers to wonder what to expect if the police stop them at DUI checkpoints in Columbia, South Carolina, and how to avoid DUI arrests, especially on New Year’s Eve, when everyone has a party to get attend and alcohol consumption is a temptation most give in to. Below, you will find an overview to help you make it through this holiday season:
Brief Guide to Columbia, South Carolina DUI Checkpoints
Although the Supreme Court declared sobriety checkpoints as legal, when organizing them, the authorities have to comply with several requirements. Here are the most important of them:
- Announcing the location and timing of the DUI checkpoint ahead of time – This means drivers can find out in advance where traffic stops take place to anticipate delays and even avoid driving in these areas after drinking.
- Justifying the effectiveness of the checkpoint – The authorities cannot organize checkpoints just because they want to. They need to prove that these checkpoints help them make traffic safer and combat dangerous behaviors like drunk driving. They usually accomplish this by concluding a huge number of DUI arrests that Columbia prosecutors easily turn into convictions.
- Choosing a safe and identifiable site for the checkpoint – The Highway Patrol in charge of the checkpoint needs to find a safe location that allows drivers to spot their presence from a distance and offers enough space for pulling cars over. They need to ensure proper lighting of the site, use warning signals and signs, and identify the checkpoint as one focused on DUI.
- Following a predictable pattern when stopping cars – The police officers cannot stop cars randomly. They have to follow a pattern, like stopping every third car. If they do not, the drivers they pull over randomly will have a sound defense strategy no matter what proof the police have against them.
- Checkpoint stops should be brief – When stopping a driver, the police officers should follow clear and simple procedures meant to emphasize any signs of alcohol impairment. In South Carolina, they use a brief questionnaire that should not take more than a couple of minutes. If the driver fails to pass the questionnaire, the following verifications, namely the field sobriety tests and, possibly, blood tests, could last much longer. It is important to note that the law prohibits law enforcement officers to detain someone without probable cause.
Judging by the above requirements, drivers who did not drink before getting behind the wheel have nothing to worry about. However, since it is easy to get carried away and enjoy a warm-up drink before the New Year’s Eve party, let’s see what drivers who failed the questionnaire should do.
How to Avoid DUI Arrests at Columbia New Year’s Eve Checkpoints
Drivers who wish to avoid welcoming 2018 in jail should consider following the steps below:
- Staying calm – Anxiety, nervous breakdowns, screaming and offending the law enforcement officers is not a good idea, especially on New Year’s Eve. Instead, drivers should remain calm, pay attention to the police officer’s questions and instructions, and try not to draw attention.
- Cooperating as much as possible – Cooperating with the police officers could help drivers pass through the checkpoint faster. However, when the cooperation may lead to self-incrimination, everyone has the right to remain silent. Drivers should keep in mind that undergoing breath or blood tests is not an option, but an obligation. Those who refuse to do so break the “implied consent” law enforced in South Carolina and risk severe penalties.
- Calling a Columbia DUI attorney if one fails the field sobriety test – Sometimes, even drivers who have not consumed alcohol fail field sobriety tests, no matter if those tests involve coordination exercises or breathing to measure the concentration of alcohol in the air one exhales. An experienced attorney can prove the tests are unreliable and convince the prosecution to drop charges. The sooner one calls an attorney the better, as no one likes to spend the New Year’s Eve working or in jail.
Reach Out to a Columbia DUI Defense Attorney Today!
Is a DUI charge about to ruin your New Year’s Eve plans? DUI arrests at Columbia sobriety checkpoints are easy to prove unjustified with an experienced attorney on your side. Contact Kendrick & Leonard now, and get the best DUI defense in Columbia!