Am I Allowed to Avoid a DUI Checkpoint in Pennsylvania?

Am I Allowed to Avoid a DUI Checkpoint


  • 1.8% of the people in Pennsylvania report driving after believing they’ve had too much to drink.
  • Between 2003 and 2012, 4,663 people were killed in drunk driving accidents across the state.
  • The rate of death for people between the ages of 21 and 34 is higher than the national average.

You have gone out on the town, whether it was to a friend’s house or the local bar, and you are on your way home. You see signs and flashing lights and wonder what in the world could be going on. As you get closer, your stomach drops and you begin looking for any opportunity to turn around. You’ve run smack into a DUI checkpoint. What are your options?

Many people believe that they are required to move through the checkpoint simply because it is in place. The truth is that you are not legally required to travel through the checkpoint. Here’s what you need to know.

Turning Around

Once you’ve spotted the DUI checkpoint, you can turn around to avoid it if it is safe to do so. Keep in mind, however, that police are used to people doing this. If you turn down a side street or even make a legal U-turn, you could get home without incident. However, there’s a good chance you may still draw attention to yourself and be pulled over for avoiding the checkpoint, under suspicion of drunk driving.

If, on the other hand, you violate some type of traffic law when you turn away from the checkpoint, you can reasonably expect an officer to quickly be on your tail. Your avoidance didn’t do anything but get you in more trouble.

Here’s a takeaway: DUI checkpoints have been legally protected as reasonable search and seizure under the 4th Amendment. This means that the police can certainly stop you and search your vehicle, but only if you move through the checkpoint. Police will set up the checkpoints in such a way that cars are guided into and through them. It will be a bit difficult to avoid driving through the checkpoint by the time you’ve seen it.

Ignoring Signals

Let’s say that you come up on the checkpoint and decide to ignore the officer who is directing you toward the line of cars waiting to go through. This is not permissible. You are being given a lawful order by the police and it would be in your best interests to follow it. Should you decide to keep driving and bypass the checkpoint, chances are high that you will be pulled over just past the checkpoint anyway.

You won’t be cited for ignoring the checkpoint, but you could be handed several tickets depending on how you maneuver around the officer and the checkpoint. For example, if you make an illegal U-turn, jump a curb and speed off, you could be looking at a host of charges when the police catch up with you, not to mention potentially being charged with driving under the influence.

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint in Pennsylvania

You decide that you don’t have any option but to go through the checkpoint and cross your fingers. It’s important to remember that your constitutional rights still apply. You are not required to consent to a search of your vehicle and you are not required to answer any questions. The flashing lights and the sheer number of police officers present is enough to make anyone nervous, but don’t incriminate yourself. The only thing you are required to provide is identifying information and basic facts.

You can reasonably expect the police to use everything in their power to get you to consent to a search. They may tell you that a search is required because you are in a checkpoint. They may tell you that you have no choice but to submit to testing. While you should remain as polite and respectful as you can, do not let yourself be coerced into performing any actions or submitting to anything you don’t want to.

When you have been out for a night with friends and drive up to a checkpoint, how you behave is up to you. While you certainly have every legal right to avoid the checkpoint, it is not always safe to do so, and you may just end up drawing more attention to yourself than you intended. DUI checkpoints are in place to keep people safe, and the police take running these checkpoints very seriously.

One True Way to Avoid Trouble at a Checkpoint

As Pennsylvania DUI lawyers, we know that there is one true way to avoid a DUI checkpoint when you’ve had too much to drink: Finding another way home that doesn’t include you driving. If you have enjoyed one too many adult beverages and get behind the wheel, you are obviously increasing your chance of being stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. You are also increasing your chance of being involved in an accident.

You have several options for getting home from a night out in Pennsylvania. You can call a Uber or Lyft, hail a taxi, choose to take public transportation, or even phone a sober friend or family member. Finding a sober ride home is always a better, safer choice, but one that not everyone makes.

Our Pennsylvania DUI Defense Lawyers are Here for You

If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, call our office. We will review the details of your stop during a case evaluation and advise you of your legal rights. We understand the stress you are under and would like to offer our assistance. Call today to schedule your consultation with an experienced PA DUI lawyer.