Instead of a dry, boring article, the following is an excerpt from a recent interview
with Attorney Leckerman on the subject.
Leckerman: In Pennsylvania, the standards that are set for checkpoint stops are a little bit looser than other states. In New Jersey, there are a number of different standards that are set up by the courts that are much more rigorous than in different states.
In Pennsylvania, the courts have really set the standards as low as the United States Supreme Court has set the standards for roadblocks. In other words, the police have to show that the interference with the motorist is very minimal.
The contact with the driver has to be for a short duration. They do have to necessarily publish the checkpoint in the paper prior to the establishment of it. There has to be a superior officer who’s responsible for it.
The Pennsylvania Police Do Have to Follow Established Standards for the Set Up and Operation of the DUI Roadblocks
In Pennsylvania, there can’t just be an officer who just decides to set up his own checkpoint whenever he feels like it. There are some standards, as far as discretion is concerned. There has to be a regularized manner in which the checkpoint itself has to be conducted.
There should be a first initial stage, a secondary stage set up and some standards for why the person will be diverted from the first stage to the second stage. There needs to be, again, some type of systematic reason, or systematic choice of whom the police are going to stop in the checkpoint since it can be every driver or every 5th driver or every 10th driver or every 15th driver, however the police want to set it up.
It has to be systematic in its approach. Those are basically the major standards that are set up. They don’t have to necessarily justify through statistics the reason for setting up the roadblock in a particular area.
In Pennsylvania, the roadblock has to be one that is set up in an area based on ‘local experience;’ that is likely to be traveled by intoxicated drivers. This really leaves it up to the discretion of the officer to say, to show, “Based upon my experience, I believe that this checkpoint should be set up in this particular area.”
The Choice of the Location for a DUI Roadblock Can Be Used for the Defense of a DUI Charge
I haven’t really read any challenges to this assertion by the police officer, that he has local experience for drunk drivers to likely be traveling in a particular area. However, I do think that that’s a good way to try to attack the choices that are made by these police officers.
Interviewer: What happens in reality? Don’t they just pick the same locations, over and over?
Leckerman: They do pick a really good spot over and over to perpetuate the justification for the roadblock in that particular area. If they have some type of information on file that shows there were “X” number of motor vehicle stops in a particular area, and then a fairly high ratio of DUI arrests, that will create justification for the roadblock.
The better question is, “Out of those arrests for DUI during the roadblock, how many of those motorists were actually convicted for DUI?” That is an area that I haven’t seen being delved into either, where the superior officer’s justification for the area may be supported statistically by how many arrests were made.
If these arrests were bogus, that’s certainly going to invalidate some of the support for this being a good area for intoxicated drivers to be intercepted.
Interviewer: What kind of numbers have you seen? Are roadblocks really effective?
Leckerman: Again, it’s all a matter of how do you interpret the data. What is a statistically significant number of DUI arrests, for each motorist stopped, for each roadblock that is set up? I’ve seen roadblock information that showed there were 5 drivers who were arrested for a DWI but 50 were stopped. Is that significant? It could be significant.
How Attorney Leckerman Has DUI Charges From a Roadblock Stop Dismissed Before the Case Goes to Trial
I’ve seen some statistics where two drivers were arrested for at DUI roadblock, when only five drivers were stopped in total. Does that justify the roadblock? It’s a very good question. It’s something that I haven’t had to deal with because all my roadblock cases are dismissed before I go to trial to dispute these issues. The charges are dismissed for a number of reasons.
Sometimes the prosecutors failed to get me the information that I’ve asked for. Other times, I’ve been able to take the information that they’ve given to me and showed them that they roadblock couldn’t be justified. At that point, they decide to work out a deal.
Other times, the investigation yields very little information that supports a DUI prosecution. In other words, these drivers did pretty well in the field sobriety tests and there could’ve been an issue with the breath testing back at the station. Without bad driving behavior and fairly good performance on the field sobriety tests, it’s much easier to convince the prosecutor to drop a case.