The holiday season means holiday parties, and no one knows this better than local law enforcement agencies. They’ll be on the lookout around West Chester for people driving under the influence, from now until after New Year’s. During this time of year, state troopers set up checkpoints along routes to stop drivers and check for potential drunk drivers. If you’re caught at one of these checkpoints driving under the influence, the penalties are severe. You’ll want an experienced advocate for DUI clients on your side if you wind up facing charges.
The surest way to avoid being arrested at these stops is to call a cab after a party, or have a designated driver. But under the 2005 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case Commonwealth v. Beaman, the Court ruled that, while the checkpoints are legal under the Fourth Amendment, they require some kind of advance publicity to justify their deterrent effect. Law enforcement agencies will typically announce their planned checkpoints to the media a week before, but the media often gives it slight coverage, meaning you have to be paying a good deal of attention to catch it.
Pennsylvania state troopers have even been known in Chester County to use decoy stops. They set up the lights for the checkpoints so that drivers approaching see the stop and are able to take a detour route. However, that route has a checkpoint along it. So, even if you have your eyes peeled for checkpoints, you could still be caught.
Consequences for DUI depend largely on how many prior convictions a person has and the blood-alcohol content (BAC) that person allegedly had at the time of arrest. For a BAC between .08 and .09 for a first time offender, a conviction typically means a $300 fine, at least six months probation, completing an alcohol highway safety school, and possibly an alcohol treatment program. For a BAC between .10 and .159, your license may be suspended for a year, you may spend time in jail, and your fine could increase to up to $5,000. For subsequent DUIs, or for DUIs with an even higher BAC, the penalties rise, and you’ll likely be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car.
However, there are strict procedures police must follow at any DUI stop, including a checkpoint. Any irregularity could mean that evidence collected can be challenged, including the results of a Breathalyzer, which are notoriously inaccurate. You can also refuse any test. Penalties for a conviction go up severely if the driver refused, but it also means denying the prosecution evidence that could be used against you.
If you’ve stopped at a DUI checkpoint and are charged with DUI, Michael J. Skinner, an experienced West Chester DUI defense attorney, can help you fight the charges.