The PA Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Menichino, No. 1904 WDA 2015 (January 23, 2017), holding that the requirement that a sobriety checkpoint be located “where and when intoxicated drivers are likely to be traveling” is satisfied when the check point is set up “in the area” as opposed to an exact location where intoxicated drivers are likely to travel.

Menichino was arrested at a sobriety checkpoint. He argued, and the suppression court agreed, that the Commonwealth was required, under the applicable case law, to specify the number of accidents, arrests, and violations at the “specific checkpoint location.”

There were only two DUI arrests reported in the 2700 block of North Heritage Road where the checkpoint was located. The suppression court concluded that the Commonwealth failed to meet the criteria for a constitutionally acceptable DUI checkpoint. The suppression court also noted it could not take into account the other 44 arrests made on North Hermitage Road because those arrests did not occur at the “specific location of the checkpoint.” Accordingly, the suppression court concluded that the stop was illegal, and suppressed all evidence stemming from the illegal stop.

The Superior Court reversed, concluding that the suppression court and Menichino misconstrued the specificity required in choosing a checkpoint location. Noting that prior cases have held that the police, in setting up a DUI checkpoint, must articulate specifics such as the reason for the location and the number of prior DUIs in the area of the checkpoint, the Superiror Court held that the specificity required for the location of the checkpoint is the area where the checkpoint is located, not the exact block/location of the checkpoint.

As to how broadly “the area” of any given checkpoint covers will, no doubt, be left for future cases to define.

CASE LINK: http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-A23024-16o%20-%2010296306715809604.pdf?cb=1

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