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Last time you checked, were DUI checkpoints legal?

If Pennsylvania police have ever stopped you at a random point along the road, perhaps while you were traveling to visit family for Thanksgiving or some other holiday, you know how frustrating it can be, especially if you were already running a bit behind schedule. Long lines of cars inching forward bumper-to-bumper while officers approach each driver's window asking questions may not be the exact scene you had in mind when looking forward to gathering with loved ones.

In fact, you may find yourself sitting behind the wheel, feeling as though the existence of the checkpoint invades your privacy. If so, you're definitely not the first person to question whether DUI checkpoints are legal or are undermining your Fourth Amendment rights.

What does the high court say about it?

Back in 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the topic of DUI checkpoints. The following facts provide information about the court's findings and how that might affect your life:

  • The court admitted that DUI checkpoints intrude upon individual liberties.
  • The court ruled, however, that a DUI checkpoint does not violate your right to protection against unlawful searches and seizures.
  • Seeing as most state laws are clear about police officers needing reasonable suspicion to conduct traffic stops, many people say the court's ruling contradicts existing laws.
  • There have actually been successful lawsuits brought before state supreme courts where judges ruled in favor of motorists who challenged the constitutionality of DUI checkpoints; that is, until the matter was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In short, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints are in violation of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures; however, ensuring the safety of the public requires them in order to deter drunk driving, and therefore, remain legal. You may or may not agree with the court's assessment regarding the validity of roadblocks. One thing's for sure, your entire holiday weekend (and perhaps weeks or months beyond that) may be ruined by police stopping you at a DUI checkpoint, if you wind up facing drunk driving charges in court.

You still have rights

You have the right, in such circumstances, to follow in the footsteps of others who have filed lawsuits by acting alongside skilled representation to challenge the legality of the DUI checkpoint that resulted in your arrest. You may be able to obtain a dismissal of the charges altogether or at least avoid conviction if your case goes to trial.

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