In Pennsylvania you are well within your rights to avoid a DUI checkpoint if you can make a legal driving maneuver such as a legal u-turn or turn onto a side road. The problem is that the vast majority of DUI checkpoints are set up in areas where drivers are not provided with an opportunity to make a legal u-turn or turn onto a side road. In fact, there is no requirement that the checkpoint be set up in an area where a driver has an opportunity to avoid the DUI checkpoint.
It is important to point out that the avoidance of a DUI checkpoint by executing a legal driving maneuver is not grounds to pull you over for suspected DUI. Simply put, a State College police officer cannot pull you over for a suspected DUI simply because he sees you execute a legal u-turn in an attempt to avoid the checkpoint. If you believe this has happened to you, it is important that you contact an experienced State College or Centre County DUI lawyer.
If you cannot safely execute a legal driving maneuver to avoid the DUI checkpoint, you may find yourself stopped by a State College police officer and asked to roll down your window. The single most important thing to remember when you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint is that the police officer is trying to detect the smell of alcohol. If he smells alcohol, it is a foregone conclusion that you will be asked to submit to field sobriety tests or required to submit to chemical breath or blood testing.
The second most important thing to remember when you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint is to not self-incriminate yourself. All too often, State College and Centre County residents will think that if they admit to only having "one or two drinks" they can talk their way out of being charged with a DUI. This is completely false, as it is an admission by you that you have consumed alcohol and will be used as a basis for probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Put another way, you are doing the police officer's job, namely, by removing the task of determining whether or not you have consumed alcohol. Remember, you can be arrested and convicted of DUI without a BAC test if you are deemed unfit to safely operate a vehicle after consuming alcohol. If you are asked if you have consumed alcohol by the DUI checkpoint officer, you should politely decline to answer the question.
The third thing to remember if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint is to have your license, registration and current insurance card in an easily accessible place in your car. It is important to have these documents easily accessible because DUI police officers are taught to look for signs of diminished motor skills of a driver who is trying to locate their license, registration and insurance card. Even if you had not been drinking that night, or you actually only had one or two drinks, digging through a glove box stuffed with used napkins, empty coffee cops and ten years of old insurance cards does not bode well for you. Having your license, registration and insurance card in an easily accessible place also cuts down on the amount time the officer has to observe and detect alcohol on you during the DUI checkpoint stop, which can significantly increase your chances of avoiding being charged with DUI. It may seem like common sense, but it is worth mentioning that the more time the officer has with you, the more likely he is going to detect the presence of alcohol if you had been drinking.
The next thing to remember is that you should decline any searches of you or your vehicle. An officer does not have the right to search you or your vehicle at a DUI checkpoint unless you voluntarily consent to the search. You may be thinking that why not agree to the search if you have nothing to hide, but this touches on two previous points: (1) do not voluntarily self-incriminate yourself and (2) it adds additional time for the officer to attempt to observe you and detect the presence of alcohol. If the officer asks to search you or your vehicle, politely decline and let him know that you are eager to get home. This brings up my final point, which is to always be polite and respectful. Ultimately, many polite people are charged with DUI everyday, but by not being rude, you save yourself the difficult task of having to explain to a judge or jury your rude behavior.
As labor day weekend is fast approaching, it is important to take a minute to locate your registration and current insurance card in your car and prepare yourself in the event you find yourself being stopped at a DUI checkpoint.