Drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the biggest risks for drivers in Pennsylvania. It’s also one of the most common reasons for people to get arrested, often without having caused any kind of property damage or injury to others.
Drunk drivers can cause otherwise preventable crashes, so law enforcement officers do their best to try to detect and arrest drunk drivers before they cause collisions. Targeted enforcement involving traffic stops of those who look impaired is one technique that officers use to keep the roads safe.
The police can also establish sobriety checkpoints where they screen large numbers of drivers in a short amount of time. What rights do you have as a driver if you encounter one of these sobriety checkpoints on a public road in Pennsylvania?
You don’t have to proceed through the checkpoint
When you notice a long line of stopped traffic ahead of your vehicle because of a checkpoint, you have the option of legally and safely maneuvering your vehicle to avoid the sobriety checkpoint. Turning at an intersection before the checkpoint or even completely reversing your course could help you avoid the inconvenience of the checkpoint.
However, officers tend to watch the roads for drivers actively avoiding the checkpoint. They may view such maneuvers as a sign that someone has something to hide. Other officers nearby may pull you over shortly after you turn around or otherwise try to avoid a sobriety checkpoint.
You have the right to keep things brief
Officers conducting a sobriety checkpoint have to comply with the law. They can briefly speak with drivers, but they cannot seriously inconvenience or detain drivers without probable cause.
Usually, they will just speak briefly with a driver who remains in their vehicle unless something gives them a reason to conduct a field sobriety test or request a chemical breath test. Even if officers detain or arrest you, you do still have all of the same rights you would have during a standard police encounter or traffic stop, including the right to remain silent.
If you find yourself facing DUI charges due to a sobriety checkpoint, reviewing the evidence against you and discussing the situation that led to your arrest in-depth can give you ideas about possible defense options.