In Pennsylvania, the law permits police officers and authorities to set up driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints to stop drivers and check for intoxication. DUI checkpoints, also called sobriety checkpoints, mobile checkpoints, or roadblocks, are temporary and appear at locations at random. Knowing what to expect should you encounter a DUI checkpoint in Pennsylvania can help you remain calm and stay out of trouble.
Officers Don’t Need Probable Cause to Stop You
First, know that at a sobriety checkpoint, police officers don’t need probable cause to ask you to stop. While the Constitution mandates that police must have probable cause to pull someone over, the Supreme Court has ruled DUI checkpoints as exceptions. The Court believes the dangers of drinking and driving outweigh the intrusion sobriety checkpoints have on drivers’ constitutional rights.
Therefore, police can stop people at random, check for DUI, and perform searches and seizures at checkpoints outside of the rules of the Constitution. Note, however, that police must publicize the location of the checkpoint ahead of time. You can find the locations of roadblocks through sites such as DUI Block. Arguing that the stop is unconstitutional probably won’t get you very far at a stop in Pennsylvania.
You Don’t Have to Proceed Through the Checkpoint
If you encounter a sobriety roadblock, the law mandates that you stop your vehicle and comply with officer instruction. However, you may stop and make a legal U-turn to avoid the checkpoint. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that an officer’s hunch that you’re avoiding the checkpoint because you’re intoxicated isn’t enough to justify a traffic stop. If you make an illegal U-turn or break another rule to avoid the stop, however, this could give the officer cause to stop you.
You Must Comply with Officer Instruction
If you do choose to go through the checkpoint, an officer may ask you to stop your vehicle and roll your window down. The actions the officer takes at checkpoints must be “reasonable” in the eyes of the law. This typically entails a conversation with the officer. During your conversation, the officer will be checking for signs of impairment such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy/bloodshot eyes, admission to drinking, or alcohol containers in your vehicle. If the officer notices signs of intoxication, he or she may ask you to perform sobriety tests.
You Have the Option to Refuse a Breath Test
In Pennsylvania, the law allows drivers to refuse to take breath, blood, and urine tests at DUI checkpoints and traffic stops – however, drivers who refuse the tests will face automatic penalties of a one-year license suspension for first offenses and an 18-month suspension for second and third offenses. If the courts later convict you for DUI based on evidence other than the breath test, you will have to serve the sentence for DUI as well as refusal of testing. If you accept to the tests, the officer may instruct you through field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test.
You Can Be Subject to Arrest
The results of your sobriety tests can lead to a DUI arrest at a checkpoint in Pennsylvania. If this happens, remain calm and use your right to remain silent. The officer can use anything you say against you as further evidence of intoxication. Do not resist the arrest, as this could lead to further charges. Call our DUI lawyers as soon as you can after arrest for trustworthy advice for your specific situation. Ciccarelli Law Offices offers free consultations for all new clients.