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When can police officers pull people over in South Carolina?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

There are multiple stages in the process that leads to someone’s prosecution for a driving under the influence (DUI) infraction in South Carolina. The very first step is usually an initial traffic stop. Some people get arrested after causing a crash, but many other people accused of impaired driving in South Carolina get arrested after a targeted traffic stop.

One of the more common and successful strategies for defending against a DUI charge involves raising questions about the legality of an individual’s traffic stop and, therefore, the usefulness of the evidence gathered. A defense attorney can potentially prevent the state from making use of evidence gathered during an illegal traffic stop.

A lawful traffic stop requires probable cause

Anytime a police officer wants to take an action that would inconvenience an individual, they will typically need a justification for doing so. A traffic stop usually starts with an officer noticing warning signs of some kind of likely illegal activity. An officer must have probable cause to believe someone has broken the law to stop them while driving.

Excess speed or mechanical issues with a vehicle could be a reason to initiate a traffic stop. Then, an officer might notice factors that would lead to alcohol screening, such as the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath or slurred speech. Situations that would give probable cause to initiate a stop based on suspicion of impairment might include crossing the center line, swerving back and forth or driving unreasonably slow given the traffic conditions.

All of those behaviors have an association with chemical impairment and could potentially serve as the necessary probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. Generally, officers should advise those pulled over of the reason for the stop. When a police officer is not able to articulate probable cause for pulling someone over, the motorist stopped in traffic may have reason to question the legality of the officer’s decision.

There are viable ways of fighting DUI charges

It is very common for those accused of intoxication at the wheel to give up and plead guilty because they assume they have few options for avoiding a conviction. Those who can show that a traffic stop started for questionable reasons may be in a good position to develop a defense strategy.

Learning more about probable cause and the legal justification for a traffic stop might benefit those hoping to fight back against pending DUI charges.