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 [email protected]