The short answer to this question is YES! Police do often announce DUI checkpoints in advance, although they are not legally required to publish notice via newspapers or social media, they often do so. Police are only required to provide “notice” of a DUI checkpoint. However, there are other legal issues involved with DUI checkpoints that can render them illegal. To understand the legality of a checkpoint, it is important to understand why DUI checkpoints are used and what rules apply to them.
The Goal of a Checkpoint
While most of us think that the purpose of a DUI checkpoint is to arrest drivers that are intoxicated, that isn’t exactly true. The main purpose of such a checkpoint is actually public awareness. If people are aware that there will be DUI checkpoints, they are far more likely to think twice.
They would be more hesitant to get behind the wheel of their car after they’ve been drinking. Ultimately avoiding the of risk being caught driving under the influence, and then arrested. This is especially true for cities that set up regular DUI checkpoints.
Published Online and in the Newspaper
Announcing a DUI checkpoint by publication such as online or a newspaper is not a legal requirement. However, police will sometimes announce DUI checkpoints by sending out alerts to the media and posting announcements on social media before the checkpoint has been set up. The announcements, however, don’t reveal the specific locations of the checkpoints. Not revealing the exact location of a checkpoint makes the announcement much more effective at deterring drunk drivers.
Making the DUI Checkpoint Legal
Legally, DUI checkpoints do not need to be announced in advance by publication for them to be legal. The police must only provide “notice” to the public of the DUI checkpoint. The “notice” must be such that motorists are not subject to “unfair surprise” when encountering the DUI checkpoint. But there are other factors that can affect the legality of a DUI Checkpoint. In Pennsylvania, the police must conduct the checkpoint in such a way that it results in minimal intrusion into a citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
This is in addition to other legal requirements. In most cases where a DUI roadblock has been found unconstitutional, the issue has been failure to achieve a balance between legitimate concern for public safety and the extent of intrusion involved.
A checkpoint must be a non-arbitrary roadblock, which means it has been setup in a location where drunk driving has been known to occur in the past. The officers must have a predetermined objective in place to help them decide which cars to stop, which means they are not supposed to be stopping vehicles at random.
When drivers are stopped, the stops are to be brief and non-discriminatory, which means that no one should be stopped for an extended period of time, and no one should be targeted because of their race or nationality. In addition, the DUI checkpoint is to be well-marked, stationary, and manned by the police for several hours. Checkpoints following these rules are considered legal and constitutional.
Under Pennsylvania law, you may avoid a DUI checkpoint as long as your driving maneuvers are legal and you are operating your vehicle in a normal manner. You are allowed to either make a legal U-turn or turn off onto a side road when approaching the checkpoint. However, the police may still try to institute a vehicle stop even though they have no basis to do so.
In Pennsylvania, if you enter a DUI checkpoint, you may be stopped. If this occurs, you must open the window of your vehicle to speak with the officer and be advised as to why you have been stopped. The officer will ask you if you have been drinking. If you say yes or if the officer can smell alcohol, you may be asked to head to the second phase of the checkpoint.
If you reach the second phase of the checkpoint, the officer there will ask you to perform field sobriety tests. You have the right to refuse the field sobriety or a preliminary breath test. If asked, you are required to provide your name, license, registration, or proof of insurance. You have a legal right to politely decline to answer any further questions. Do not volunteer any information without consulting a lawyer first, or you may incriminate yourself. This applies even to the simplest of questions!
Should you be taken into custody, you have a legal right to refuse chemical testing at the police station. However, if you do refuse chemical testing, then you will automatically have your license suspended for 12 to 18 months. In addition, your refusal will be used as evidence against you when you stand trial for a criminal DUI.
While failure to announce a DUI checkpoint by publication does not make it illegal, there are other factors that can. Police officers are obligated to follow certain rules, such as only setting up checkpoints at areas known for drunk driving and having an established objective for what vehicles they will stop. Failure to comply with such guidelines can render a DUI checkpoint illegal.
Contact Robert L. Schwarz
If you are being charged with a DUI, contact the law offices of Robert L. Schwarz. I can make sure that your rights are protected. If the police officers involved in your arrest did not follow the rules, then your case could be dismissed. Contact my office today to request a case evaluation, and let me defend your rights!