Summertime is often the season where more police departments set up DUI checkpoints, especially on weekends and holidays when people are more likely to be enjoying an evening out. However, if you see a DUI checkpoint up ahead, are you allowed to avoid it? And how are mandatory checkpoints legal in the first place?
Legality of checkpoints
First, many have questioned the legality of DUI checkpoints because the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. However, state and federal courts have upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints time and time again. In Pennsylvania, police can’t search a vehicle or occupants during a DUI checkpoint, nor practice any form of discrimination. They must give prior notice of the checkpoint’s location to area citizens, and the checkpoints should be in areas known for past drunk driving violations.
Also, as of July 2, police officers can participate in roving DUI patrols, with officers from multiple jurisdictions covering different Pennsylvania municipalities. On May 31, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out DUI charges of one woman who contested that she was received a DUI in Robinson Township, by a Moon Township officer out of his jurisdiction. The new law attempts to stop further instances of that loophole.
Avoiding DUI checkpoints
If you make a U-turn or redirect your route in a lawful manner, police cannot stop you from avoiding a DUI checkpoint. Only if you drive erratically while trying to avoid a checkpoint or if police suspect you of a motor vehicle violation can they force you to stop. Sometimes, one officer at a DUI checkpoint will follow cars that turn around beforehand. As long as a driver has the car’s headlights on, uses turn signals appropriately, follows the speed limit and drives safely, the officer can’t stop that car.
At the checkpoint
At the DUI checkpoint, officers are looking to issue DUIs to drunk drivers. You most likely will be asked some questions so they can observe your behavior. You can refuse to answer, but when it comes to taking a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test, you can face stiff penalties for not complying, even if you are not ultimately guilty of a DUI. That’s because Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, detailed in the fine print of the application for a state driver’s license.
One of the penalties for not submitting to a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test is a one-year license suspension for a first offense.
If you are facing a DUI charge, or you refused a breathalyzer test, contact an experienced criminal law attorney. Charges can be reduced or dismissed if you can show officers stopped you illegally or violated your rights.