Traffic Safety Checkpoints Must Comply with DUI Checkpoint Rules


The full panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that all police check-points for motor vehicle violations must comply with the same standards for DUI checkpoints in Commonwealth v. Garibay.

In that case, Garibay was stopped at a seatbelt compliance checkpoint in Pittsburgh. At the checkpoint, police noticed that the exhaust system on his car appeared to violate noise restrictions and asked he pull to the side for further testing. Upon pulling over, police noticed that Garibay was lethargic and in a trance-like state and that his person and car smelled of marijuana. After he failed a field sobriety test, police placed him under arrest and upon searching him found a pipe used for smoking marijuana. A blood test also revealed the presence of marijuana in his system. He filed a motion seeking to suppress the car stop and evidence obtained from the car stop, which the trial court denied.

The Superior Court ruled that no lesser standard for checkpoints related to motor vehicle violations than those present for DUI checkpoints. For vehicle safety checkpoints, the police must be brief and not entail a physical search, must sufficiently warn of the checkpoint, require administrative approval (i.e. non-police approval), the time and place must be based on local experience as to where and when people are most likely to violate the vehicle laws and the decision for which vehicles to stop must be fixed and not left to the discretion of police officers on the scene. Police must provide the data on which they rely to have a legal vehicle stop. Without these requirements in place, the stop of the vehicle is illegal and any fruits of that stop must be suppressed.

By Matthew Quigg