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Is a DUI checkpoint an inherent violation of someone’s rights?

Drivers in Pennsylvania need to know and follow traffic laws to avoid citations that could cost them hundreds of dollars and, potentially, their driving privileges. Motorists also need to know about their rights, as any encounter with police officers might lead to a violation of those rights.

Officers who are trying to connect someone to criminal activity sometimes knowingly violate best practices and an individual suspect’s civil rights in their eagerness to gather evidence. Those who have been accused of criminal charges often need to ask themselves whether a violation of their rights may have occurred as they think about how to respond to the charges they’re facing.

Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are often the result of targeted enforcement efforts against specific individuals, but sometimes police officers end up arresting dozens of people on a single night. Sobriety checkpoints force everyone on a road to stop and interact with police officers.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that checkpoints are constitutional

Technically, the Fourth Amendment adds the right to be free of unreasonable searches and property seizures to the numerous other rights extended by the Constitution. There is a bit of nuance in play in situations involving Fourth Amendment concerns, as what is reasonable to one person may not seem reasonable to the next.

The courts across the country have had to consistently review and clarify the authority of police to conduct searches in specific scenarios. Although there have been criminal defendants who have tried to fight a DUI charge based on allegations that the checkpoint where they got arrested was a violation of their rights, the federal Supreme Court ruled that the checkpoints are not inherently a violation of someone’s rights.

Provided that they only involve cursory screening for all people and only enhanced screening in cases involving a reasonable suspicion of impairment, there isn’t anything unconstitutional about a checkpoint. Pennsylvania allows DUI checkpoints provided that the police departments involved file the proper paperwork and adhere to best practices.

Checkpoints don’t automatically mean checkmate

An arrest at a DUI roadblock does not automatically mean that someone has to plead guilty or that the state will inevitably convict them of a crime. It may still be possible for them to defend themselves by challenging the evidence against them or even the technical legality of the individual checkpoint based on paperwork errors.

Seeking legal guidance and reviewing the state’s evidence can help those who are hoping to fight back against DUI charges determine the best strategy for doing so.


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