South Carolina Statute 56-5-1900 Affects State DUI Law

There is a new law in South Carolinaregarding driving under the influence charges.  S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1900 states that “a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within the lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”

In State v. Vinson, Mr. Vinson contended that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the police did not have “reasonable articulable suspicion” to justify the traffic stop. State v. Vinson, No. 5044. The police stated that they saw the man veer back and forth from the traffic lines, which along with some other factors justified the stop. Id. Vinson contends the stop was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because, as he states, the officer did not have probable cause based on reasonable articulable suspicion to arrest him. Id.

As stated in State v. Butler, “as a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. The police, however, may also stop and briefly detain a vehicle if they have a reasonable articulable suspicion that the occupants are involved in criminal activity.” State v. Butler, 343 S.C. 198, 202 (2000).  Therefore, in South Carolina, courts look at the reasonableness of the officers’ stop, which is determined by the totality of the circumstances.  Id. The totality of the circumstances approach is utilized by analyzing the circumstances surrounding the actual stop to ascertain whether the stop of a vehicle was reasonable and justified by “reasonable suspicion.” Id.  One of the factors to be determined is whether the vehicle has swerved across the painted lines in the road.

For the Vinson case, the officer determined that in his experience, statistics, the absence of any other traffic on the road, the day of the week, the time of night; coupled with the fact that the driver was crossing over the lines on the road, meant the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, drivers in South Carolina must be wary of S.C. Code Ann. §56-5-1900, because they can be pulled over by the police if the police determine that they have crossed over the white or yellow lines on the road.  No more suspicion is necessary because this statute makes crossing “unsafely” over the lanes a violation.

If you or a loved one has been issued a DUI as a result of this statute, contact the Law Offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower.  We are equipped to handle any kind of DUI case in South Carolina.  You can contact our Baxter Village, South Carolina office at 803-548-4444 or contact us toll-free at 877-374-5999.