DUI Sobriety Checkpoint in Chester County
Pennsylvania is among the 38 states where sobriety checkpoints are legal. The remaining 12 states prohibit sobriety checkpoints either under state law or the Constitution. Checkpoints in Pennsylvania may also be referred to as roadblocks or mobile checkpoints. Law enforcement sets up a traffic stop, which is not tied to a specific suspicion, with random locations in order to perform a sobriety checkpoint. Vehicles are stopped, and each driver is briefly interviewed by law enforcement during a Pennsylvania sobriety checkpoint. Any driver who appears to be inebriated or under the influence of drugs will be subject to regular field sobriety tests. The CDC believes these sobriety checkpoints could potentially prevent one out of ten deaths related to drunk drivers.
The question many have regarding these sobriety checkpoints is whether an officer must have probable cause in order to stop drivers and check to see if any of those drivers are inebriated. While our Constitution does require probable cause, the U.S. Supreme Court has, in effect, overridden that part of the constitution under the theory the dangers to the public from drunk drivers outweighs the intrusion of sobriety checkpoints. Perhaps in an attempt to further minimize the intrusion factor, the NHSTB issued specific guidelines for law enforcement during the roadblock. The most important guideline is that the sobriety checkpoints must be publicized ahead of time.
Laws Governing Sobriety Checkpoints
Many of the guidelines which currently govern sobriety checkpoints are the result of Supreme Court case Michigan Dept. of State Police vs. Sitz. In this case, the court ruled sobriety checkpoints must use a “neutral mathematical formula” in the selection of drivers or vehicles to stop, rather than appearance, and must not be left to the subjective discretion of police officers at the scene. Sobriety checkpoints are also required to be highly visible and must minimize the amount of time each driver spends stopped at the checkpoint.
Legally Avoiding a Pennsylvania Sobriety Checkpoint
In Pennsylvania, sobriety checkpoints are conducted at predetermined, fixed locations, and often occur late at night or in the very early morning hours. Although not all states allow a person approaching a sobriety checkpoint to turn around, Pennsylvania law does allow a legal U-turn or a turn onto a side road. Even if a Pennsylvania police officer sees the driver perform such a maneuver, he or she is not allowed to pull the driver over under the belief that the maneuver showed guilt of intoxication. If there is no way to avoid the checkpoint, the law requires all drivers to open their window and speak to the police officer. If the officer detects the smell of alcohol or has other reason to believe the driver is intoxicated, the driver may be asked to drive to a separate area and undergo field sobriety testing.
Unavoidable Sobriety Checkpoints
If there is no way to avoid the checkpoint, the law requires drivers to open their window and speak to the police officer. If the officer detects the smell of alcohol or has other reason to believe the driver is intoxicated, the driver may be asked to drive to a separate area and undergo field sobriety testing—which the suspect may refuse. A Breathalyzer test may only be administered during a Pennsylvania sobriety checkpoint stop if reasonable suspicion exists—requiring a Breathalyzer test with no particularized suspicion clearly violates the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Challenging a Pennsylvania Sobriety Checkpoint Stop
While Pennsylvania sobriety checkpoint stops are legal, challenges to the stop may exist if the rules which govern those stops were not properly followed. If the plans for the sobriety checkpoint were not submitted to a magistrate for approval, the results of that stop may be challenged. If a Breathalyzer was administered without reasonable suspicion of intoxication, a challenge may potentially exist. Finally, if it can be shown the police stopped a specific vehicle or driver based on a subjective determination of appearance, then a subsequent arrest may be challenged. Police officers are required to adhere to a random sequence for stops, such as every third car or every other car.
Take Miranda Rights Seriously
Those who are under suspicion of DUI are not required to answer any questions asked by the police officer and, in fact, should not answer questions other than politely giving their name and address. Drivers are allowed to refuse a breath test or field sobriety test under Pennsylvania law and may also refuse to allow a search of their vehicle. Yet, it is important to know that failure to submit to a breath test or field sobriety test may have consequences.
Speaking to an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible is very important; the penalties for a DUI conviction can be quite serious, affecting the ability to obtain future employment in addition to the criminal penalties imposed.
Contact Our Chester County DUI Defense Attorneys
The DUI defense attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been arrested and charged with DUI. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, Exton, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and Paoli.
Our dui legal team has over 30 years of combined experience representing clients stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and we are ready to give you advice on how to contest and avoid a dui conviction.
Based in suburban Philadelphia at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380, we make your choice all the clearer with locations throughout the metropolitan Philadelphia Pennsylvania, including Center City Philadelphia, West Chester PA, Malvern (serving Downingtown/Exton PA), Kennett Square PA, Lancaster PA, King of Prussia PA, Plymouth Meeting PA, Radnor and Springfield PA.
We serve Downingtown, Paoli, Media, Norristown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, Reading and Allentown. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced DUI Sobriety Checkpoint lawyer at Ciccarelli Law Offices, by contacting us at (610) 692-8700 or toll free at (877) 529-2422.