Understanding The Rights Of Pennsylvania Drivers At DUI Checkpoints

Drivers in Pennsylvania who are stopped for suspected DUI are often asked to perform voluntary tests, which may later be used as evidence against them.

Many people in West Chester and throughout Pennsylvania occasionally consume alcoholic beverages. For drivers who are of legal drinking age, this generally is not a problem. However, it can cause serious legal issues for drivers in the state.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, more than 52,000 people across the state were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2014. In some cases, these arrests are not clear-cut. As such, it behooves motorists to understand their rights during DUI traffic stops to help protect themselves from unwarranted arrests.

Responding To Questioning

Often, the first thing law enforcement agents do when approaching vehicles stopped at DUI checkpoints is ask the drivers questions. Many people in these situations feel obligated to speak with officers. Answering these questions, however, may give authorities cause for further investigation or incriminate drivers.

The National Motorists Association points out that motorists have a legal right to refuse to talk with authorities. Instead, drivers may present officers with a card stating they are choosing to exercise their constitutional rights. This includes exercising their Miranda rights and refusing to answer questions until they have consulted with a legal representative.

Roadside Tests

When law enforcement officers suspect that people are driving under the influence, they often ask them to perform field sobriety tests. These tests include the one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, and walk and turn. In most cases, authorities use these tests as proof that drivers are intoxicated, not to show that they should be allowed to continue on their way.

Roadside tests, while potentially incriminating, are typically voluntary. As such, drivers are not required to perform them. Law enforcement officers frequently fail to notify motorists of their right to refuse when they ask them to participate. Proving their case in court may be more difficult, but authorities can still arrest drivers even if they refuse to perform field sobriety tests.

Chemical Tests

Many motorists are confused about their rights with regard to chemical testing. Before being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, Pennsylvania drivers generally have the right to refuse a preliminary breath test. It can be important to remember that consenting to such tests could work in motorists' favor if they have not consumed any alcohol.

Sometimes, law enforcement may have enough probable cause to arrest a driver for suspected DUI, even if he or she refuses a preliminary breath test. Under Pennsylvania state law, motorists cannot legally refuse chemical tests once they are taken into custody. Doing so could result in additional, severe penalties. TribLIVE.com reports that people who refuse a blood test after being arrested could be subject to driver's license suspension for up to one year.

Seeking Legal Counsel

When stopped for suspected drunk driving, the choices that Pennsylvania motorists make could profoundly affect their futures. The evidence that is gained at such stops is often used as proof that a driver is guilty, not innocent. Therefore, those who have been charged with alcohol-related offenses may benefit from working with a legal representative. An attorney may explain their rights, as well as help them understand their options.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, arrest, penalties