The federal Constitution and Pennsylvania state law extend protections to individuals. Some of these rights relate to interactions with law enforcement. For example, there are limitations on police searches and rules against forcing someone to testify against themselves in court.
Some people find the federal protections related to police activity confusing. They may not understand what rights they have or how to assert them when dealing with law enforcement. For example, you may have heard someone makes the somewhat common claim that driving under the influence (DUI) roadblocks, which some people call sobriety checkpoints, are unconstitutional.
Are these large-scale police operations a violation of your constitutional rights?
The Supreme Court has ruled on sobriety checkpoint
In the past, individuals accused of intoxicated driving have sought to defend themselves by challenging the legality or constitutionality of the sobriety checkpoint. A driver in Michigan had a case in the 1990s that went all the way to the federal Supreme Court. Unfortunately for that driver, the ruling was not in their favor.
The Supreme Court found that sobriety checkpoints were not a violation of their civil rights and therefore the evidence gathered at the checkpoint could be used for the sake of prosecution. Since that ruling, many states have continued to perform frequent DUI roadblocks to apprehend and deter drunk drivers. Some states, like Texas, have gone the other route and declared such roadblocks illegal.
Pennsylvania agrees with the Supreme Court on the legality of DUI roadblocks. The state permits law enforcement agencies to plan and execute sobriety checkpoints on public roads for large-scale enforcement of impaired driving laws. You can’t defend against DUI charges simply on the grounds that a traffic stop as part of such a widespread enforcement effort is a violation of your constitutional rights.
You can still defend yourself against a DUI arrest
Although a checkpoint may not be a violation of your basic constitutional rights, it could still be illegal if conducted in properly. It’s also possible that the test results obtained by police officers were inaccurate, possibly because they had administered so many tests that day. There might even be a medical explanation for your performance on those tests.
Looking at all the defense options available can help you fight back against Pennsylvania DUI charges.