Legal Challenges to Sobriety Checkpoints

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects every individual against unreasonable search and seizure, but courts have upheld the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints if they are conducted within certain guidelines. If a sobriety checkpoint isn’t conducted properly, evidence gathered during an arrest may be suppressed.

The first step in effectively challenging a driving under the influence arrest at a sobriety checkpoint is to learn as much as possible about the roadblock. An experienced New Jersey DUI / DWI attorney will employ the pretrial discovery process to obtain detailed information about the sobriety checkpoint and evaluate its legality. The attorney will typically seek the following information:

  • All memos, diagrams, and reports used in preparing the roadblock
  • How long each driver was stopped at the checkpoint
  • Whether police took steps to ensure that the safety of motorist was of primary concern
  • How the location, timing and duration of the roadblock was determined
  • The names of all involved law enforcement personnel, both sworn and civilian
  • The identity of the police officials who were responsible for selecting the site and procedures followed at the roadblock
  • The name of every driver arrested at the checkpoint. This information is necessary to determine whether proper procedures were actually followed, if defense counsel opts to interview them
  • The formula that was employed to determine which drivers to stop
  • Where field sobriety tests were performed, and who conducted them
  • Where chemical tests were given, and who conducted them.
  • Whether the public received advance notice of the checkpoint
  • Whether the roadblock had an official appearance, including lights, warning signs, and uniformed personnel
  • Whether drivers were allowed the opportunity to turn away from the roadblock without being detained

A knowledgeable NJ drunk driving defense lawyer will thoroughly evaluate this data to determine whether police followed proper procedure when operating the sobriety checkpoint. If the correct protocol wasn’t followed, and there was no probable cause for a drunk driving arrest, a skilled New Jersey DUI / DWI defense attorney will make a motion to exclude any evidence gathered during the stop.

Probable cause to make an arrest is needed if police don’t have a warrant and didn’t operate a sobriety checkpoint according to established guidelines. Probable cause exists when the facts known to the officer would lead another reasonable person in the same circumstances to believe that the person was guilty of a crime.

Drivers arrested for a New Jersey DUI / DWI at sobriety checkpoints often worry that there is no point in fighting the charges, but evidence obtained at drunk driving checkpoints where the proper guidelines weren’t followed can be challenged. A New Jersey DWI defense lawyer skilled in defending driving under the influence cases will work to determine whether the checkpoint was lawful and craft an individualized defense strategy accordingly.

Please call Levow DWI Law to discuss any issues regarding roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints in New Jersey, as well as any other New Jersey DWI / DUI issue. Call 877-593-1717, or email us at evanlevow@newjerseydwilawyer.com.