“CLOSE” IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR HORSESHOES, HAND GRENADES, and SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS

The PA Superior Court recently decided the case of Commonwealth v. Mercado, No. 1444 EDA 2016 (February 27, 2019) holding that the police “substantially complied” with the Tarbert/Blouse guidelines (adopted by the PA Supreme Court to establish the constitutionality of a DUI roadblock) when they selected the location and operation of the checkpoint at issue. 

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas affirmed the order of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, which granted Mercado’s Motion to Suppress evidence wherein he challenged the propriety of the location and operation of the sobriety checkpoint established by the Philadelphia police. 

The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that the suppression was improper because the roadblock and the checkpoint “substantially complied” with the applicable legal guidelines and, therefore met constitutional requirements.

“To be constitutionally acceptable, a checkpoint must meet the following five criteria: (1) vehicle stops must be brief and must not entail a physical search; (2) there must be sufficient warning of the existence of the checkpoint; (3) the decision to conduct a checkpoint, as well as the decisions as to time and place for the checkpoint, must be subject to prior administrative approval; (4)the choice of time and place for the checkpoint must be based on local experience as to where and when intoxicated drivers are likely to be traveling; and (5) the decision as to which vehicles to stop at the checkpoint must be established by administratively pre-fixed, objective standards, and must not be left to the unfettered discretion of the officers at the scene.”

In the case at issue, Lieutenant McCarrick testified that he selected the location of the checkpoint based on statistical data demonstrating that ”the 25th district” accounted for the highest rate of DUI arrests in the city of Philadelphia, and that Allegheny Avenue was the main avenue of East-West travel in the district.

“Substantial compliance with the Tarbert/Blouse guidelines is all that is necessary to minimize the intrusiveness of a roadblock seizure to a constitutionally acceptable level.”

“The specific location of the checkpoint is the area where the checkpoint is located, not the exact block/location of the checkpoint.” Therefore, the checkpoint at issue in this case “substantially complied” with current law.

CASE LINK:

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/Opinion%20%20ReversedRemanded%20%2010389605052687775.pdf?cb=1

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