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PA Superior Court: Guidelines Are Standard for all Checkpoints

December 10, 2014

Here’s some news of note for Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Lawyer experience in DUI defense, and drivers alike: The Pennsylvania Superior Court this week ruled that standards for DUI checkpoints are applied to other types of checkpoints as well.

In a court case, Commonwealth v. Garibay, the state argued that police officers must comply with what are known as Tarbert/Blouse guidelines when setting up a DUI checkpoint, but that the standard for other types of checkpoints is less rigid.

According to a great article in The Legal Intelligencer, at issue in the case was the rationale for the time and place for a seatbelt compliance checkpoint – the one in which, the defendant had been arrested.

Here’s what happened with Garibay: Police arrested him as part of a state Click it or Ticket campaign in Pittsburgh. According to the article, his vehicle was loud, police pulled him over and determined that he might be under the influence of drugs. A field-sobriety test was done, which he allegedly failed. A search was then conducted in which a marijuana pipe was found. A subsequent blood test revealed he also had marijuana in his system.

The defense sought to have evidence from the incident suppressed, but the lower court refused, leading to the recent superior court case.

For those unfamiliar with the guidelines governing DUI checkpoints, there are five issues that help determine constitutionality of such a checkpoint. Tarbert/Blouse dictates that vehicle stops must be brief, and that they cannot involve a physical search.

Another issue? The when, where and why. The guidelines state that police agencies must give sufficient notice of the proposed checkpoint. The choice of time and location must also be based on where drunk drivers are likely to be travelling based on past local experience and etc. They are required to provide data, statistics, or reports, either by documentation or testimony, that supports their reasoning for choosing a particular spot to place a checkpoint, as well as the duration of each stop and the timing. If they fail to do so, evidence pertaining to the stop and whatever evidence results from it are required to be suppressed.

In Garibay’s case, only one officer testified as to checkpoint specifics, and he did not provide specifics as to the timing of stops or the number of accidents, citations, or arrests previously made in that location. The majority of the court felt that the officer did not meet the burden of proof necessary and that the evidence collected from the stop should have been suppressed.

It is important to note that consistency is the key with checkpoints – the decision of what vehicles to stop must be predetermined and objective. For example, if it is predetermined that every fifth car will be stopped during a DUI checkpoint, they must check every fifth car consistently. It can’t simply be left to the discretion of officers, to prevent discrimination and other problems.

Police at checkpoints must ensure that no one is driving with blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent, the legal limit in Pennsylvania. It is their duty to run sobriety tests or breath analyzing tests to determine whether your driving is impaired or not.

Once convicted, DUI cases can have major consequences. Apart from the fact that it gets a permanent place in your criminal record, you may be imposed with huge fines and a substantial period of jail time along with the suspension of your driver’s license. Beyond what is mandated by the court, its effect may go to such an extent where you will have difficulty in procuring a job opportunity or maintaining a proper professional career and that’s when a Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer can help you to defend your rights.

So, in case you have been held at a checkpoint due to DUI related issues, you must immediately get in touch with a Pittsburgh Criminal Lawyer. Only a Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer or Attorney has the experience and the knowledge to defend your rights in such a case.

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