A "DUI checkpoint" also known as a "DUI roadblock" or "sobriety checkpoint," is a well-marked roadblock conducted by police in order to deter motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The police may arrest any individual caught in the roadblock who are operating their motor vehicle while intoxicated. During DUI roadblocks, the police may systematically stop vehicles, question drivers regarding their sobriety and ask for identifying information such as driver's license, registration and proof of insurance. Any motorists that show signs of intoxication will be pulled aside and asked to perform field sobriety tests to determine whether a DUI arrest should be made.
It is legal for the police to conduct DUI checkpoints as long as certain guidelines are followed. Both the United States Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have upheld DUI checkpoints as constitutional. In order for a DUI roadblock to be lawful in Pennsylvania, the police comply with the following rules:
- The decision of where and when to conduct a DUI checkpoint must be made by supervisors in the police department acting in an administrative or managerial capacity. Patrol officers do not have authority to initiate a DUI checkpoint.
- The police must determine the location of the sobriety checkpoint by evaluating statistical data showing how many DUI related arrests and/or accidents occurred on the particular roadway where the checkpoint is conducted.
- There must be advance notice of the roadblock to Pennsylvania motorists. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has indicated that informational signs posted in advance of the roadblock along with "flashing lights, police vehicles, and the presence of uniformed officers" may be sufficient to uphold a DUI checkpoint as constitutional1. However, the police should publish the time and place of the roadblock in a local newspaper to be certain that they satisfied this constitutional requirement2.
- The police must stop all vehicles that come through the checkpoint or use a neutral formula to determine which vehicles to stop. For instance, stopping every third car would be considered a neutral formula.
- The initial stop of the vehicle must be brief. Initially, the police are limited to questioning the driver and cannot physically search the vehicle or its occupants.
If the police do not follow these guidelines your DUI case may be dismissed by the Court and you should be discharged.
Contact, my office if you have been involved in a DUI checkpoint. If you have been pulled over at a DUI checkpoint and face DUI charges in Pennsylvania, my firm may be able to challenge the validity of the roadblock and have your DUI case thrown out.