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Is it legal for police officers to set up a sobriety checkpoint?

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2023 | DUI Defense

Many people arrested for drunk driving in Pennsylvania get pulled over by an officer who suspects them of intoxication. People driving too slowly, swerving all over the road or behaving erratically can give police officers a reason to pull them over and check them for intoxication. Officers can also request testing during a stop initiated for other purposes if someone seems to be under the influence.

Many other people arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in Pennsylvania end up in state custody after a crash. Police officers frequently require testing from those involved in a collision and may arrest anyone who fails a test even if they were not the one to blame for the crash.

In theory, police officers could also arrest dozens of people in just a few hours by setting up a sobriety checkpoint and screening everyone who passes through a particular section of road. Some states allow these checkpoints and others do not.

The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue

There have long been claims that widespread enforcement efforts, including sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, are a violation of someone’s rights. A case focused on this specific technicality actually went to the Supreme Court in 1990, and the ruling was in favor of the police department.

Effectively, the Supreme Court determined that sobriety checkpoints conducted with reasonable restrictions in place are not innately a violation of someone’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. A handful of states, including Texas, have internal policies that prohibit sobriety checkpoints, but most other states abide by the Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

Police departments conducting sobriety checkpoints need to file appropriate paperwork, limit how long the officers interact with each individual motorist and otherwise seek to carefully comply with the rules for sobriety checkpoints. Although individuals arrested at a DUI roadblock cannot successfully argue that the state violated their rights by forcing them to stop at a checkpoint, there could be numerous other viable means of defending against impaired driving charges.

Reviewing the state’s evidence and even the documentation for the checkpoint itself with the assistance of an attorney can be a good starting point for those hoping to fight back against Pennsylvania DUI charges.



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