Police officers in Pennsylvania have limited resources to enforce the commonwealth’s many laws. To get the most bang for their buck, law enforcement agencies typically step up drunk driving enforcement on holidays and other popular drinking days. Along with Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are common for enhanced DUI enforcement.
Typically, intoxicated drivers encounter law enforcement in two ways. First, an officer may stop a specific vehicle if he or she suspects the driver is violating the law. Alternatively, a group of officers may erect a sobriety checkpoint. This approach requires approaching motorists to stop and interact with officers.
The requirements for a valid sobriety checkpoint
The U.S. Supreme Court has held sobriety checkpoints to be constitutionally valid. Still, officers must take steps to protect your legal rights. Specifically, for a DUI checkpoint to be legal, it must meet the following criteria:
- Officers must put the checkpoint in a place where drunk driving is usually a problem
- Officers must warn approaching motorists of the checkpoint
- Officers must not conduct the checkpoint in a discriminatory way
- Officers must make the checkpoint as brief, convenient and safe as possible for motorists
Officers have an incentive to conduct valid DUI checkpoints. After all, if a checkpoint runs afoul of legal requirements, a judge may suppress any evidence uncovered at the checkpoint. Accordingly, if you are facing DUI charges after an arrest at a checkpoint, investigating whether the checkpoint was legally valid is an important part of your defense.
Your rights at a DUI checkpoint
Even if you are sober, interacting with police officers at a DUI checkpoint can be stressful. To help you manage your anxiety, you should understand your rights. Unless an officer has probable cause to search your vehicle, he or she must obtain your consent. You do not have to give it, though. You also have the right not to incriminate yourself.
While drinking and driving is always risky, you are increasingly vulnerable to a DUI arrest on major summertime holidays. If you encounter a sobriety checkpoint when beginning your summer, understanding how to proceed is critical.