Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety checkpoints are temporary roadblocks designed to catch drunk drivers. The Supreme Court has ruled that these checkpoints don't violate drivers' rights, but must follow certain guidelines in order to be lawful.

The use of sobriety checkpoints to catch suspected New Jersey DWI drivers are becoming more common. Towns receive funding to conduct roadblocks from money collected from DWI / DUI convicted drivers.

Many drivers wonder why police are allowed to stop motorists without probable cause, but the courts have ruled that sobriety checkpoints don't violate drivers' rights so long as certain criteria are met.

However, if police don't follow those guidelines, evidence gathered during a driving while intoxicated arrest at a sobriety checkpoint may be challenged. A New Jersey DWI defense attorney at Levow DWI Law, P.C. will thoroughly analyze the circumstances surrounding your NJ DWI arrest at a sobriety checkpoint and devise a defense strategy.

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz, and the New Jersey case of State v. Kirk, established many of the guidelines that govern sobriety checkpoints. The criteria laid out by the Supreme Court are intended to make sobriety checkpoints fair and safe, and balance the rights of drivers against society's wish to keep impaired drivers off the road.

The Supreme Court's DWI / DUI roadblock guidelines are fairly straightforward. Police should use a random mathematical formula to select vehicles, such as every fourth or sixth car, to prevent officers from stopping drivers based solely on appearance or other subjective criteria. Checkpoints should also have high visibility, and minimize the average amount of time each person is detained.

Police should stop each driver only long enough to ask short, simple questions and to check for signs of impairment, such as alcohol on the breath, slurred speech, and glassy or bloodshot eyes. Drivers who show no signs of intoxication must be allowed to leave the checkpoint immediately. If police do detect signs of impairment, the driver should be directed to a separate area for a field sobriety test. At that point, any investigation must be based on probable cause.

Authorities should establish sobriety checkpoints only as part of an ongoing safe-driving program, and the logistics must follow established departmental policy. A judge and a representative from the district attorney's office should be included in planning the roadblock. The checkpoint's supervising officers must be well-versed in any safety and civil-rights issues that arise. The public should be made aware of the checkpoint ahead of time through the media, and the police are supposed to publish the exact location.

A vehicle stopped at a roadblock constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, according to the Supreme Court. A Fourth Amendment seizure takes place "when there is a governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally applied." However, sobriety checkpoints are held primarily to promote public safety, not to discover evidence of crimes. The court has ruled that no warrants are required. The Fourth Amendment provides protection from unreasonable search and seizures. In the case of sobriety checkpoints, the Courts applied a balancing test weighing the intrusiveness of the detention on the individual, against the government's interests for public safety, placing greater importance on keeping impaired motorists off the road.

Police don't always adhere to the guidelines established by the Supreme Court when conducting sobriety checkpoints, so not all evidence gathered during NJ DWI drunk driving arrests at roadblocks is admissible. An experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer at Levow DWI Law, P.C. will evaluate every aspect of a sobriety checkpoint arrest to determine whether proper protocol was followed, and devise an appropriate challenge.

Please contact us to discuss how we can use our knowledge of roadblocks / sobriety checkpoints to help you in your NJ DWI / DUI arrest. Call Levow DWI Law, P.C. at (877) 593-1717 for a free consultation today.

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