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Shaffer & Engle Personal attention. Compassionate response. Fast Results.

DUI Checkpoints are Legal, but Avoidable

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By Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA

Summer time is a prime time for DUI roadblocks and random stops or checkpoints for intoxicated drivers.  Often times we see these on highly-travelled areas to and from beaches, bars, restaurants, concert venues, and amusement areas where alcohol is often served, consumed or purchased.  They are legal, as long as they meet certain requirements.  Those requirements are not the topic of the article.  It's the avoidance that is the topic.  If you can lawfully avoid one, you may do so.  Don't be surprised if you are stopped for doing so.  Don't argue with the police.  Comply with all requests, but know in the back of your mind, that if what you did was legal, the stop and its fruits (observations, tests, statements) will be excluded from evidence.  Why? 

There is no requirement that motorists be provided with an opportunity to avoid a DUI checkpoint.  However, where a motorist has an opportunity to avoid a checkpoint and does so lawfully, police have no legal basis to institute a vehicle stop.  An officer's mere hunch that an intoxicated motorist is seeking to avoid the checkpoint is insufficient.  In the absence of evidence of a Vehicle Code or criminal law violation, police may not stop a motorist who executes a legal driving maneuver in an apparent effort to avoid such a police roadblock.  In Com. v. Scavello, a motorist was arrested after making a legal U-turn prior to reaching a DUI checkpoint. Although police had probable cause to believe the motorist was drunk, as a result of observations and field tests administered after the stop, a unanimous Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court determination that because the police lacked a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, all evidence gathered as a result of the stop had to be suppressed or excluded from evidence at trial.

If you have questions about a DUI stop and arrest, contact us for a free consultation.  We will answer your questions quickly and over the phone.  Call toll free at the number above.  You may contact Attorney Pasqualini directly at [email protected]

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