People in South Carolina may wonder when police have the right to pull people over if they suspect someone is driving while under the influence. In general, police can only stop drivers if they have some kind of reasonable suspicion of a crime. There are exceptions to this rule; while controversial, sobriety checkpoints have been upheld in most states as an exception to the rule so long as all drivers passing by a specific area are checked for drunk driving.
Reasonable suspicion essentially means the police officer must have a belief that some sort of crime has taken place. That suspicion of a crime can include the suspicion of DUI. When reasonable suspicion is present, police can pull someone over and briefly examine the situation; if they still suspect drunk driving, they can perform a breath test or a field sobriety test. There are a number of factors police can consider to be reasonable suspicion that someone might be driving under the influence, including a driver making illegal turns, weaving from one lane to another, almost hitting other cars, driving extremely slowly or stopping for no reason.
In addition, police can stop vehicles for other unrelated reasons but then conduct a breath test if they think that the driver is drunk; for example, they could stop a car for speeding, failing to wear a seat belt or having broken lights. Even if a breath test was positive, this cannot retroactively justify a stop without reasonable suspicion of drunk driving.
People who are facing DUI charges may be threatened with severe penalties, including driver’s license loss or suspension, hefty fines or even jail time. A criminal defense lawyer may help people to challenge police accusations and work to resolve a drunk driving case positively.