With the holiday season fast approaching it is important to be aware that police officers in Chester County and elsewhere in the surrounding areas will be conducting DUI checkpoints. Police utilize sobriety checkpoints in their effort to enforce the drunk driving laws in the state, arrest impaired drivers and keep the roads safer for others. While they may seem completely discretionary and random, in Pennsylvania sobriety checkpoints must conform to judicially created guidelines in order to be constitutional.
When the police decide that they want to conduct a DUI checkpoint, there is a process and procedure that must be followed. The process and guidelines for a constitutionally acceptable DUI checkpoint are known as the Tarbert – Blouse guidelines. This name comes from the two cases in which the guidelines were first announced. The goal of the guidelines was to safeguard against completely arbitrary roadblocks. Further, it makes sure that constitutional rights are not infringed upon at any time during the course of the DUI checkpoint.
The five guidelines that were adopted by the Court in the Blouse case that will allow a checkpoint to be constitutionally appropriate are as follows:
(1) the vehicle stop must be brief and must not include a physical search;
(2) sufficient warning of the existence of the checkpoint is a MUST;
(3) the decision to conduct a checkpoint, as well as the decisions as to time and place for the checkpoint, must be subject to prior administrative approval;
(4) the choice of time and place for the checkpoint must be based on local experience as to where and when intoxicated drivers are likely to be traveling; and
(5) the decision as to which vehicles to stop at the checkpoint must be established by administratively pre-fixed, objective standards, and must not be left to the unfettered discretion of the officers at the scene.
(See, Commonwealth v. Worthy, 957 A.2d 720 (PA. 2008))
Law enforcement must keep the records of compliance with all of these guidelines. It is not uncommon that while running a DUI checkpoint, some of the guidelines may be missed or not followed. For example, if it is a particularly busy night and the DUI checkpoint has created a large amount of traffic, police cannot arbitrarily begin to allow cars to pass the checkpoint without being stopped – there must be an established “choke point” where, if traffic reaches, the police will then allow cars to pass the checkpoint until it has cleared. Any of these missteps will turn a vehicle stop into an unconstitutional vehicle stop.
If you have been arrested for DUI as a result of a sobriety checkpoint vehicle stop, contact Mike DiCindio directly in order to discuss your case.
The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact DiCindio Law for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case.
Mike DiCindio is a criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale as well as in Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Berks County.