Checkpoints for driving under the influence — also known as DUI or sobriety checkpoints—are the most common type of police roadblocks most people will encounter. DUI checkpoints serve mainly as an opportunity for police to get a brief look at motorists to see if they appear intoxicated. The vast majority of drivers passing through a DUI checkpoint do little more than slow down or stop briefly before moving on. That pause allows the police to evaluate a driver’s condition, and run license plate numbers through the system to check for wants, warrants, or other alerts. That is all the police are allowed to do unless they see something that gives them probable cause to probe further.

A DUI Checkpoint Does Not Require You to Give up Your Constitutional Protections

Your constitutional rights still apply at DUI checkpoints. The police are allowed to stop you, but only long enough to look into your car from the outside. They are not allowed to search your car unless the brief stop gives them probable cause to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol or some other substance, if they see something potentially illegal during their look into your car from the outside, or if you agree to a search. If you aren’t visibly under the influence, do not have drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other illegal items in plain sight, and do not consent to a search, your stop will last only long enough to check and see that your driver’s license is valid. Usually, such stops last less than a minute. At such a checkpoint, you are not required to:

  • Answer questions, such as about where you have been or where you are going
  • Admit to illegal activity, such as drinking before driving
  • Agree to a search

If you attempt to evade a roadblock or checkpoint, the police are likely to chase you and treat your evasion as probable cause to search without your consent. Also, if drug-sniffing dogs are present at the checkpoint, your options are limited. If the dog, outside of your car, indicates that drugs are present, that likely will serve as probable cause for a search.

Courts generally allow properly run DUI checkpoints. However, police do not have an automatic right to ask for your license and registration unless the stop results from an alleged driving violation. If the stop raises a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, though, police may then ask for license and registration. If they have probable cause to believe there is a violation of the law, they can search you and your vehicle with or without your permission.

Contact Skinner Law Firm

If you were arrested following a stop at a DUI checkpoint in the Philadelphia area, consult a DUI defense attorney to explore your options. The stop might have been incorrectly conducted or otherwise violated your rights in some way. The attorneys at The Skinner Law Firm can help. Reach us at (610) 436-1410 or through our online contact form.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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