At sobriety checkpoints, Pennsylvania patrols question drivers and reserve the right to detain them and test whether they are impaired or not. This might seem underhanded to many people, especially since police must have probable cause for any other traffic stop, but these checkpoints are legal under Pennsylvania law.
However, a new Supreme Court ruling raises questions about whether many checkpoints across the commonwealth are lawful.
Checkpoints are legal, but some are not approved
Sobriety checkpoints might be legal, but they must be approved and established by the elected officials in that area before they can legally operate.
This was the main issue in question in a recent Supreme Court ruling.
According to KDKA News, several police forces in nearby municipalities often team up to work checkpoints. One of those teams involved in this recent case is the West Hills DUI Task Force. They operated in Robinson, but there were several issues with that operation including:
- No elected officials approved the use of the task force or permitted officers to act in other municipalities
- Many officers did not have proper jurisdiction to pull drivers over at that checkpoint
- Therefore, many of the traffic stops at the checkpoint were not legal
The Court ruled that all municipalities must approve ordinances to have task forces like this operate such checkpoints. Now, cities across Pennsylvania are reviewing whether their own task forces are legal.
Several cases could be thrown out
With this ruling, the Supreme Court threw out the DUI charges and case against one Molly Hlubin. The West Hills DUI Task force pulled her over at the checkpoint, arrested her and convicted her in 2013. And since that task force did not operate legally, her conviction was not within legal boundaries either.
This could make a huge difference for hundreds—even thousands—of other cases in Pennsylvania. Many other individuals have experienced the same consequences as Hlubin, when they should not have. And with this ruling, it is possible that they could appeal their cases as well.
However, checkpoints will not disappear
This ruling does not eliminate checkpoints or prevent officers from arresting individuals at these checkpoints. However, it does regulate the checkpoints to ensure that they are legal. It also protects citizens’ rights from unfair and illegal police abuse of power.