DUI checkpoints have been used by law enforcement as an anti-DUI tool in Pennsylvania for many years. While some believe they are an effective tool for preventing DUI accidents, injuries, and deaths, other believe they are unconstitutional. Their constitutionality has been argued in several cases and based on legal precedent; they are legal provided they follow specific guidelines. If you feel that your rights were violated at a DUI checkpoint in Philadelphia, you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia DUI lawyer. The Law Offices of Lloyd Long are here to explain the legality of DUI checkpoints in Pennsylvania.
Rules for PA DUI Checkpoints
There are certain laws that determine how Pennsylvania law enforcement are permitted to conduct a DUI checkpoint.
Pennsylvania DUI stops are typically not tied to any specific or individual suspicions, which means if you may lawfully change your route to avoid a checkpoint. Pennsylvania law states that an officer’s “mere hunch” that an individual is avoiding a sobriety roadblock is not enough to infer that a motorist is intoxicated. At this point, the police have no suspicion to stop you. However, if you make an illegal U-turn or another illegal maneuver to avoid the DUI checkpoint, they may use this to stop you for that traffic offense and investigate you for DUI if they find things like the smell of alcohol on your breath or empty beer bottles.
For a DUI checkpoint to be considered legal, Pennsylvania law enforcement must stick to the guidelines established. Some of these guidelines include that:
- Checkpoints are permitted to only create a minimal intrusion of privacy to citizens, meaning officers cannot search the vehicle or its occupants;
- They must be in the interest of public safety;
- They cannot be discriminatory;
- They cannot be arbitrary and must have evidence to support placing a DUI roadblock at that location;
- Advanced notice of their location must be provided to the public.
In addition to giving the public a notice of the mobile checkpoint, law enforcement have a duty to inform the public of various other things concerning a scheduled DUI checkpoint. For example, law enforcement must state the name, badge numbers, officer title, police department, and level of training that all persons involved in the institution of the checkpoint possess. There must be sufficient evidence that the roadblock was given prior administrative approval.
Law enforcement must also share information describing how the DUI checkpoint was conducted. They must record information like the number of vehicles stopped at a specific time, how police officers engaged with motorists, and the method for deciding which drivers were subjected to a field sobriety test.
What Happens at a DUI Roadblock in PA?
If you are approaching a DUI roadblock in Pennsylvania and you are stopped, you must roll your window down to speak with the officer. Once you are stopped, the officer should advise you of the nature of the stop. At this point, the officer may ask if you have been drinking. Replying “yes” will almost guarantee you are asked to proceed to the next phase of the checkpoint, but lying is never advised. This can also happen if the officer believes they detected the odor of alcohol on your breath or emanating from your car.
If you do advance to the second part of the sobriety checkpoint, an officer will ask you take a field sobriety test. Under Pennsylvania law, if an officer asks that you take a field sobriety you have the option to refuse. In fact, if an officer asks you anything beyond your name, license, registration, or proof of insurance, you have the right to decline to answer their question. Be careful about volunteering information at a sobriety checkpoint that is not required.
If you happen to be taken into police custody, you no longer have the right to refuse a sobriety test. If you do refuse a chemical test after being arrested, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to 18 months, and evidence of your refusal will be used against you at your criminal DUI trial where you could face more penalties. Offenders with multiple DUIs may face even stiffer penalties. However, police must obtain a search warrant to take a blood sample under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota.
Constitutionality of DUI Mobile Checkpoints
The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints. The Supreme Court stated that DUI checkpoints do not amount to an illegal search or seizure because the intrusion of privacy was justified by the public’s interest in reducing car accidents caused by DUIs.
Philadelphia, PA DUI Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations
If you or your loved one was recently arrested at a DUI checkpoint, you should consult a skilled Philadelphia DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Office of Lloyd Long, we have been defending the rights of Philadelphia citizens arrested for DUI for decades. Work with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer that has successfully represented over 20,000 cases including underage DUI cases. For a free consultation, contact us today at (215) 302-0171.