DUI Checkpoint Tips
When drivers see a DUI checkpoint up the road, they often get nervous — especially if they’re coming back from a dinner or a gathering involving alcohol. If the police detect any signs that you’ve been drinking, such as alcohol on your breath, slow responses, or slurred speech, they may have probable cause to give you a field sobriety or breathalyzer test.
While there are several strategies for fighting the use of such tests as evidence against you in your DUI trial, it’s obviously better if you aren’t arrested or tested to begin with. For this reason, a driver’s priority when getting stopped by the police — for any reason — is to avoid giving them probable cause.
Probable cause is what gives the police authority to search your vehicle or to arrest you. Without it, they cannot legally detain you for much longer than it takes to check your license, registration, and insurance.
When you encounter a DUI checkpoint in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area, these tips may help you avoid an arrest. However, sometimes you may face arrest no matter what you do. In that event, the help of a skilled Pittsburgh DUI lawyer may be critical.
Avoid Giving The Police Probable Cause to Test You or Search Your Car
The police can exercise a greater extent of authority over you once you give them probable cause to suspect that you may be breaking the law. Whether during a DUI checkpoint or a routine traffic stop, the police may detain you, give you tests, and search you and your car if they notice any of the following sources of probable cause:
- Signs of impairment — Red or glassy eyes, smell of alcohol, slurred speech, slow reaction times, lack of coordination, abnormal behavior
- Symptoms of drug use — Dilated pupils, red or glassy eyes, smell of smoke or marijuana, strange behavior or speech
- Any incriminating evidence in plain sight — An open container, a bag of drugs, or a firearm
- Any other clues that you are doing something illegal
Make the Interaction as Short as Possible
The longer the police have you stopped, the longer they’ll have to notice anything suspicious that may give rise to probable cause. For this reason, you should:
- Be polite and cooperative — You have nothing to lose and you’ll probably be let go more quickly if you make the interaction pleasant.
- Be organized — Keep your driver’s license, registration, and insurance readily accessible and don’t get in the habit of leaving your stuff, which may include suspicious articles, on the seat or in plain sight.
Assert Your Rights
While it’s important to be respectful toward law enforcement officers, you can and should assert your rights. If confronted by the police, you may politely remind them of your right to:
- Remain silent — The constitution does not allow the government to force citizens to testify against themselves. You don’t have to answer the officer’s questions about whether you’ve been drinking, where you’ve been, or where you’re going.
- Decline a search of your car — Many searches happen because a driver tells the police it’s OK to search the car. You are under no obligation to do so. The police can only search your car if they can explain how they have probable cause.
- Avoid a DUI checkpoint — In Pennsylvania, there is no law forbidding drivers from making legal maneuvers to avoid a DUI checkpoint. The police need to see you violating a traffic rule to have a legal basis for stopping you.
- Be free from illegal detention — It is illegal to falsely imprison people, which means detaining them without reason. A police officer cannot legally keep you for longer than it takes to check your license, registration, and insurance — unless he or she has probable cause that you’ve done something illegal.
How a Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer Can Help
If you are drunk or high at the time the police stop you, it is very likely that you will be charged with a DUI. In these cases, there are steps that a skilled Pittsburgh DUI lawyer can take that may result in the dismissal of your charges, a conviction for a lesser charge, or a verdict of not guilty.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we have a proven track record of obtaining beneficial case results for our clients charged with DUI. If you’re facing DUI charges, you can call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.