Archive for September, 2015

Spotlight Issue: Are DUI checkpoints legal?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Are DUI checkpoints legal?

While it may seem like a DUI checkpoint would be a violation of your 4th amendment rights, Pennsylvania courts have ruled that they are legal. However, the courts have imposed strict rules governing the process.
Plans for all DUI checkpoints must be submitted for administrative approval prior to the start of the checkpoint. The plan must include evidence that the location and time of the DUI checkpoint are based on a high number of past DUI related accidents and/or arrests in that area and at that time. The plan must also include a neutral pattern for stopping cars in the checkpoint (or police may elect to stop every vehicle). For example, police submit a plan stating that they will stop every fourth car and that plan is approved; police cannot decide during the checkpoint to stop three cars in a row. The purpose of requiring prior approval of the plan is to remove discretion from the field officers.

PA courts have suggested that notice of a DUI checkpoint should be published in advance, although the exact location does not need to be disclosed. This information is often published in local newspapers. Checkpoints must be well marked so that motorists know that they are approaching such a site. Motorists may avoid a checkpoint by turning off of the road before reaching it if they can do so in accordance with traffic laws. Police cannot stop a car just for avoiding a checkpoint. Police do not have to create a way to avoid the checkpoint.

Once the checkpoint begins, cars stopped in accordance with the approved plan may only be detained for a brief time. If police develop reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol during that brief stop, then the car must be directed to a separate area. Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) can be administered at that time.

It is only through a process called discovery that your attorney can find out whether the police followed the proper procedure for the DUI checkpoint. Our office will obtain information on whether a DUI checkpoint plan was submitted and approved, whether it was followed appropriately and whether all laws were followed during your arrest. If you’ve been charged with a DUI following a stop at a DUI checkpoint in Berks County, you need our help. Contact Reading, PA DUI attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: Not Guilty Verdict following Bench Trial – Endangering Welfare of Children and Public Drunkenness in Berks County

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Attorney McAllister recently secured a “not guilty” verdict for a client charged with Endangering Welfare of Children and Public Drunkenness in Berks County. This client avoided a possible jail sentence and significant other collateral consequences.

Endangering Welfare of Children is defined as a parent or guardian who knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support. The charge is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree which means that it is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.

Public Drunkenness is defined as a person appearing in public manifestly under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree that endangers himself or other persons or property or annoys others in the vicinity . Public Drunkenness is a summary offense and is punishable by a maximum fine of $500 for the first offense or $1,000 for the second or subsequent offense.

The crime of Endangering Welfare of Children is a very serious charge that can have a lasting impact on a parent. Perhaps even more serious than a potential jail sentence, a conviction for Endangering Welfare of Children can result in the loss of custody, Children & Youth involvement and the possibility of children being removed from the defendant’s care by the county.

Attorney McAllister’s client initially applied for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, but was denied entrance into the program (see our previous blog posting on Non-DUI ARD). Based on Attorney McAllister’s recommendation, this client decided to take the case to trial. This client waived the right to a jury trial and elected to have the case heard by the judge during a bench trial. The decision to elect a bench trial is one that needs to be carefully considered with the help of an attorney.

Thanks to the hard work of Attorney McAllister, this client is able to move forward without a damaging criminal conviction.

If you’ve been charged with Endangering Welfare of Children or Public Drunkenness in Berks County, you need the help of our Reading, PA criminal attorneys. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.