As the drunken driving prevention campaign from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes, “There’s nothing scarier on Halloween than a drunk driver.”
According to NHTSA, a staggering 43 percent of all motor vehicle deaths during the five Halloween nights between 2009 and 2013 involved drunk driving. Additionally, 26 percent of all pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night in 2013 involved a drunk driver.
Last year, a 50-year-old woman was convicted of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, accidents involving death or personal injury, and driving under the influence (DUI) after she had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.203 percent when she collided with a minivan on Halloween 2012, killing a 52-year-old Brookhaven woman. The offender was sentenced to serve 9 to 18 years in a state correctional facility last June.
Accidents like this are why there will be an increased national focus on drunk driving prevention this Halloween. Local police in and around Chester County have not yet announced specific DUI checkpoints, but drivers in Southeastern Pennsylvania will be coming across them this Halloween.
DUI checkpoints are not created at the whims of the authorities. There are statutes and rules that must be followed during their implementation. DUI checkpoints require administrative approval and prior notice to the public of their locations. Vehicles to be stopped during a checkpoint must be pre-determined (such as every third car) and not just arbitrary or randomly stopped.
The surest and safest way to avoid a tragic accident or DUI arrest (or both) is simply to have alternative transportation plans arranged if you will be consuming alcoholic beverages. If you do come across a DUI checkpoint, you should be aware of your rights during this encounter with authorities.
- Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent — Remember that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows you to assert the privilege against self-incrimination. This means that you have the right to refuse to answer any question until you have legal representation. Your Fifth Amendment rights are especially critical when it comes to the basic and common question of, “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” If you have had anything to drink, any honest answer can be grounds for further investigation of your mental state. Lies or common statements such as “I only had a few…” tend to spur roadside tests. Simply stating that you choose not to answer the question cannot be used against you.
- Refuse Any Roadside Tests — Most police officers will want you to get out of your vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. The only three tests that have been standardized by the NHTSA are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, One-Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn test. Even then, these tests still have inherent flaws that can make them difficult to pass for drivers who are sober. Furthermore, some officers use non-standardized tests such as reciting the alphabet backwards or performing the Romberg balance test. These tests are essentially designed to have people fail and give authorities supposed probable cause to arrest alleged offenders.
If you should happen to be arrested for DUI at a checkpoint in Southeastern Pennsylvania, you will want to immediately contact an experienced West Chester DUI defense lawyer. Our attorneys can review not only the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, but the legality of the checkpoint itself.