In times of big events or during the holiday season, police departments will begin setting up random DUI checkpoints around town. This is done to keep the people of Pennsylvania safe from those who may be under the influence of alcohol and driving at the same time. However, much has been asked regarding the legality of a DUI checkpoint. Thus the following includes information regarding your rights during these types of checkpoints.
The fourth amendment
Opponents of DUI checkpoints will tend to point towards the fourth amendment to prove that they are unconstitutional. This is because the 4th amendment states that people have a right against unreasonable searches and seizures. A search and seizure are allowed when a police officer has probable cause that the individual has committed further crimes. However, that is only allowed when there has been an arrest and not when the person has been randomly stopped for no reason. In fact, judges will tend to throw out any evidence collected in such a manner.
Can you avoid a checkpoint?
Legally speaking, there is nothing wrong with attempting to avoid a checkpoint if you do so while following the laws of the road. However, if a police officer spots you attempting to avoid it, that can be enough for them to rightfully stop you.
One of the most common misconceptions regarding checkpoints is that you are free to go because the officer never read you your Miranda rights. The fact is that Miranda rights are only applicable during a “custodial interrogation.” Most courts don’t see checkpoints as a custodial interrogation, and thus no Miranda rights need to be explained.
Confusion around checkpoint legality
One of the issues that opponents of a DUI checkpoint have is that stopping everyone single car without probable cause is a form of seizure and thus illegal. In fact, the supreme court has stated that a balancing test provides much more probable cause than a checkpoint. However, that same supreme court also stated that the needs of each state to prevent and protect people from drunk drivers far outweighs the minimal intrusion someone will experience.
If you are stopped at a checkpoint and charged with a DUI, seeking the services of an attorney is your best first step. Doing so may provide you with the necessary legal guidance to either remove or reduce the charges placed against you.