Legality of Pennsylvania DUI checkpoints called into question

Law enforcement teams in multiple municipalities across Pennsylvania sometimes work together to set up sobriety checkpoints in strategic locations within the area. Any drivers attempting to pass through the checkpoint are subject to a traffic stop, and authorities may arrest those who show any signs of impairment. 

Over a 15-year period, one such multi-community task force has arrested 700 drivers alleged to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time that they passed through the checkpoints. Though there can be no doubt as to their effectiveness, a recent decision by the state Supreme Court calls the legality of the checkpoints into question. 

In a 35-page decision, the Court ruled that elected officials of the municipalities must vote to approve an ordinance to give the task force authorization. Though the multi-municipality checkpoints have been a joint effort of law enforcement in several communities, no elected official in any of the municipalities gave them the go-ahead to form the task forces that set them up. It is, however, legal for authorities within a single community to set up DUI checkpoints within its own borders.

The high court's decision has the potential to affect people with a history of DUI arrests and convictions. One woman has already seen a 2013 conviction overturned, and the decision could retroactively affect hundreds, or even thousands, more. The full impact of the decision is not yet evident, but those facing drunk driving charges in the interim may find it helpful to retain the services of a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney. 


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