A recent court ruling has put a temporary halt to DUI sobriety checkpoints in Lancaster County.
Roving DUI patrols, however, will continue and legislators are working on a new law that would allow the sobriety checkpoints to restart.
The legality of the local checkpoints — which led to 17 people being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs here last year — was called into question in a case thrown out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The case involved a woman charged with DUI at an Allegheny County checkpoint in 2013. She argued in an appeal that the stop was not legal because the officer who charged her was working in a municipality outside of his jurisdiction.
In a May 31 ruling, the court threw out the case on the grounds that the departments’ municipalities did not have proper ordinances in place allowing officers to participate in inter-municipal checkpoints.
“In a nutshell, this was a hiccup. Law enforcement, with the help of the Attorney General and the Legislature were able to very quickly refocus,” said C. Stephen Erni, executive director of the Pennsylvania DUI Association.
A proposed bill that would make the sobriety checkpoints legal again passed the state House Wednesday and will be voted on by the Senate.
House Bill 1614 would amend the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act to extend jurisdiction of municipal police officer to included requested participation in a federal, state or local task force.
Meanwhile, 1,000 DUI cases from checkpoints in Pennsylvania could be affected, Erni said.
The impact has been small in Lancaster County, though. One DUI case filed after a checkpoint has been withdrawn, according to district attorney’s office spokesman Brett Hambright.
“We believe the legislative fix will be retroactive and address any cases dismissed at the MDJ level. We will refile those,” Hambright said.
Roving patrols, or a patrol when a department dedicates an officer or officers to look for impaired drivers, will continue. Hambright said a sobriety checkpoint planned for July 4th weekend will be replaced by a roving patrol.
Erni said one advantage of a checkpoint is that it’s a “visible deterrent.”
“Everyone who drives through one will tell others, ‘The police are out there looking for (drunk) drivers,’” Erni said.
In 2018, police officers made contact with 3,537 drivers at six checkpoints. Police encountered 945 people during a November 21 checkpoint alone. That check point led to three arrests, according to data from the Center for Traffic Safety.
Eight roving patrols in 2018 led to contact with 266 motorists and resulted in 11 people being charged with DUI.