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Pennsylvania DUI Checkpoints

In an effort to curb drunk driving in the state of Pennsylvania law enforcement officers have been given the legal right to set up a sobriety checkpoint or a DUI roadblock. Although the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints has been challenged in court, courts in Pennsylvania have decided that they are constitutional under state and federal law.
SVG of Pennsylvania state seal
Most recently this issue was decided in the Commonwealth vs. Beaman.  The decision issued in that case stated that Pennsylvania law enforcement officers are allowed to make a “brief, suspicionless stops to check for driver intoxication, using a predetermined objective standard in determining which cars to stop. Such DUI checkpoints are advertised in advance and are situated at roadway locations where drunk driving is known to have occurred in the past.” Courts have determined that DUI checkpoints, which allow for stops without probable cause, are useful to remove intoxicated drivers from the streets before they cause bodily injury or damage property. This benefit has been determined by the court to outweigh the infringements of the driver’s rights.

Was the Pennsylvania DUI sobriety checkpoint legal?

  We recently had a driver on our DUI forum ask about the validity of DUI checkpoints and whether or not his DUI arrest was valid if the checkpoint did not follow the guidelines established by the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has outlined very specific criteria that must be followed in the state by law enforcement officers who are performing a field sobriety check:
  1. The drunk driving stop must be brief and the police cannot perform a physical search of the vehicle.
  2. The drivers must be warned of the impending sobriety checkpoint. Courts have ruled that the location need not be published in a newspaper or any other media outlets, only that a sign must be put up prior to the stop to provide “sufficient warning.”
  3. The checkpoint must be approved prior to its implementation. The location must also be approved.
  4. The DUI checkpoint must be in a location that is frequented by drunk drivers.
  5. There must be a procedure for determining what drivers will be stopped, and the police officers cannot make the determination of who to stop at the scene based on random criteria.
  6. Drivers may be stopped if they attempt to avoid the DUI checkpoint only if there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or they have violated a traffic law.

What can I do if my rights were violated at a DUI Checkpoint?

  Drivers who are stopped at a DUI checkpoint can be arrested for drunk driving. The question for our driver on our forum is whether or not the Pennsylvania police followed the requirements outlined above, which have been established by the state of Pennsylvania. If the requirements have been violated it is time to talk to a drunk driving lawyer who is familiar with the drunk driving laws in the state of Pennsylvania, the case law and the statutes which outline the procedures which must be used in legal a DUI field sobriety checkpoint.
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