Your Rights at DUI Checkpoints
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DUI or sobriety checkpoints work to reduce alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes by about 20 percent. Although checkpoints keep the roads safer, they may also result in wrongful and discriminatory arrests for driving under the influence (DUI). It is important to know your rights if you are faced with a DUI checkpoint. An experienced West Chester criminal defense attorney can help you determine if your rights have been violated.
What Is a DUI Checkpoint?
Generally speaking, police officers are required to have probable cause or reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime to make a traffic stop. However, DUI checkpoints are an exception to this rule and allow legal stops without reasonable suspicion in Pennsylvania. DUI checkpoint stops are not tied to any suspicion that a specific individual is committing an offense. The purpose is to identify those driving under the influence that may be endangering other drivers and would otherwise go undetected.
Law Enforcement Parameters
A DUI checkpoint is constitutional only if it meets the following requirements balancing an individual’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution against Pennsylvania’s compelling interest of public safety:
- The vehicle stop must be brief and it cannot include a search of the vehicle or its occupants.
- Police must give advance notice (signs, newspaper and other media advertisements).
- Police administration must make the decision to schedule the roadblock and police officers cannot simply schedule it on their own.
- The location and time of the roadblock must be based on a history of drunk driving incidents and arrests in that location.
- The “stop criteria” must be based on an objective standard created by police administration and not individual patrol officers.
What Will I Encounter at a DUI Checkpoint?
You may avoid driving through a checkpoint in a lawful manner (using appropriate turn signals, obeying speed limits, making a legal U-turn, etc.) and before actually entering the checkpoint.
If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you will be briefly detained and interviewed, after which sobriety tests may be administered if police suspect you are intoxicated.
While you may refuse the portable breath test at the checkpoint and chemical testing at the police station, refusal to submit to testing results in automatic suspension of your license for one year—and may not help you avoid a conviction, as police testimony and video of you showing evident intoxication often suffices to convict even without proof of your blood alcohol level.
In addition to DUI charges, you may also be subject to other criminal charges and citations, such as drug possession, out-of-date registrations, expired driver’s license, tinted windows, and defective tail lights.
For more detailed information on Pennsylvania’s impaired driving laws, visit NHTSA.GOV.
Contact a West Chester DUI Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Options
DUI charges range from misdemeanors to felony offenses, and penalties for impaired driving can include driver’s license revocation, fines, and jail time. If you or a loved one has encountered a DUI checkpoint, find out what your options are by consulting an experienced West Chester DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Call The Skinner Law Firm today at 610-436-1410 or fill out our online contact form.