Police departments in Pennsylvania are increasingly using DUI checkpoints as a tool to deter drunk driving and catch impaired drivers. While the courts have found these types of roadblocks to be perfectly legal, if the police fail to follow certain protocols established by the courts, it is possible to successfully defend charges brought against you as a result being caught at a checkpoint.
According to Pennsylvania law, the Police must meet five criteria to legally conduct a sobriety checkpoint. First, the decision to conduct a checkpoint, as well as the decisions as to time and place for the checkpoint must be subject to prior administrative approval. Next, the choice of the time and place for the checkpoint must be based on local experience as to where and when intoxicated drivers are likely to be traveling. These provisions exist to ensure that the sobriety checkpoint is properly planned with the help of a supervising judge and a representative of the county district attorney's office and that the checkpoint is targeted toward a route with a history of DUI.
After an appropriate time and place has been established for the checkpoint, the police must provide sufficient warning of the existence of the checkpoint. This is why the police advise the checkpoint to the public by publishing a notice in the newspaper and having local media announce their plans to conduct the checkpoint. However, the police are not required to disclose the exact location of the checkpoint.
Fourth, the police must use a set mathematical formula, such as stopping every fourth car, to select which vehicles to stop. Therefore, the selection of vehicle and driver is completely random and eliminates any chance of bias. Finally, the checkpoints must be highly visible and any stop must be brief and not entail a physical search. The officers should stop the driver just long enough to pose a few questions and detect possible signs of intoxication such as slurred speech or glassy, bloodshot eyes. If an officer suspects a driver of being intoxicated he should relocate the driver to a safe distance to undergo field sobriety testing.
Sobriety checkpoints serve the admirable purpose of encouraging safe driving and protecting citizens against drunk drivers. However, the police must be careful to conduct such checkpoints without infringing on the rights of individuals. If the police fail to do so, it is possible to successfully challenge the case.
Contact our Pittsburgh law office, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, should you or someone you care about need advice or legal representation regarding a DUI related matter.