Law enforcement agencies throughout Pennsylvania take drunk driving seriously. To catch intoxicated motorists, officers use a variety of tactics. Commonly, they watch for signs that a driver may have had too much to drink or respond to a tip from another motorist. You must realize, though, DUI checkpoints are generally legal in the Keystone State.
A sobriety checkpoint is essentially a roadblock, where officers stop vehicles to request a license, registration and proof of insurance from drivers. During the stop, officers also watch for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, alcohol odors or bloodshot eyes. If an officer suspects your blood alcohol concentration is greater than the state’s 0.08% legal limit, he or she may ask you to perform a field sobriety test or blow into a breathalyzer device.
Guidelines for a legal sobriety checkpoint
While officers enjoy broad discretion to enforce the state’s DUI laws, they must not behave discriminatorily or arbitrarily. For a sobriety checkpoint to pass legal muster, it must meet all the following guidelines:
- The checkpoint must occur in a safe, fixed place.
- The checkpoint must be in a location where DUI arrests are common and at a time when they usually occur.
- The checkpoint must have a sufficient number of officers and a supervisor.
- Administrators, not patrol officers, must choose the checkpoint’s location and time.
- Officers must have a consistent method for stopping vehicles.
- Officers must provide the public with notice of the checkpoint’s location and time.
One defense to a DUI charge
If you are facing DUI charges, you may have a few different defense theories. It is worth investigating, however, whether officers complied with guidelines when erecting the checkpoint. If they did not, you may be able to seek dismissal of your DUI charge. Alternatively, you may be able to use checkpoint errors to secure a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
The best way to avoid a DUI conviction is to never to drink and drive. Unfortunately, though, life has a way of interfering with anyone’s good intentions. By understanding sobriety checkpoints in Pennsylvania, you can better plan for staying out of jail.