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Pennsylvania driver arrested at police DUI checkpoint

While police agencies in Pennsylvania are allowed to conduct DUI checkpoints to search for impaired drivers, they must follow specific procedures. For example, to be granted permission by the court to set up a checkpoint, police must establish a mathematical process for stopping vehicles -- say, every fourth vehicle -- to avoid the possibility of profiling, or detaining drivers based on their race, gender or any reason having nothing to do with their possible intoxication.

The use of checkpoints in Pennsylvania does not suspend the laws requiring police to have probable cause to search people's vehicles. As with the numerical detention requirement, this is meant to curb police abuses like random searches based on a suspect's skin color or similar reasons. When drug charges stem from an impermissible detention and search, anything seized during that search are generally not allowed in court as "fruit of the poisonous tree."

It remains to be seen if police procedure will be questioned in the arrest of a Pennsylvania man at a DUI checkpoint on May 25. Officers in Armstrong County stopped the suspect as he entered the checkpoint around 11 p.m. Officers later claimed that the suspect threw something out the window and switched seats with a passenger before reaching the stop.

When the car reached the checkpoint, the officers claim, there was a noticeable marijuana odor coming from the vehicle. Based on that alleged smell and the tossing of the object, police conducted a search of the car. They say they found two baggies of what appeared to be marijuana and $7,000 in cash. They arrested the suspect and charged him with drug possession and DUI, among other things.

Source: KDKA-TV, "Westmoreland Co. Man Arrested On Drug Charges At DUI Checkpoint," May 26, 2013

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