Are DWI Checkpoints Legal in NJ?
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints in its decision in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444. Our country’s highest court held that the interest in reducing alcohol-impaired driving was sufficient to justify the brief intrusion of a sobriety checkpoint. Currently, 38 states conduct sobriety checkpoints, while the remaining 12 prohibit checkpoints under state law. If conducted lawfully, sobriety checkpoints throughout New Jersey do not constitute illegal searches and seizures. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, checkpoints are frequently conducted once or twice a month in New Jersey.
The national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign was launched in 1999. Police departments throughout the U.S. have since been cracking down on drunk and impaired driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 10,000 people die on the road due to drunk driving each year in the U.S.
What is a DWI Checkpoint?
A DWI checkpoint is a procedure used by law enforcement to stop vehicles at a specific location with the aim at detecting any drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs. In addition to removing intoxicated drivers from the road as they encounter them, the goal of such roadblocks is to deter people from getting behind the wheel while drunk by making them aware of the risk of arrest. If the police operating the checkpoint do not follow the correct protocol under New Jersey law, the evidence they obtain when performing a DWI arrest may be inadmissible in court. If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI after being detained at a checkpoint, it is important that you contact an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney immediately.
What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?
When you approach a sobriety roadblock while driving in New Jersey, you will notice warning signs and lighting designating the checkpoint area. You will be required to slow down as people are processed through the checkpoint location. Police are supposed to use a neutral mathematical formula in deciding who to stop, and they are not permitted to stop and question drivers based on appearance alone.
The police officers conducting the sobriety checkpoint will detain each driver selected for a brief period of time. During this stop, they may ask questions, request documentation such as your driver’s license, insurance or registration and look for signs of impairment. Some typical signs of impairment due to alcohol or drugs include slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol in the car or on your breath. If signs of impairment are detected, the driver will be asked to drive to a separate area where field sobriety tests will be performed.
Have You Received a DWI at a NJ Checkpoint?
If you have been arrested for drunk driving or DUI in New Jersey as a result of a sobriety checkpoint, contact an attorney to help fight for your rights in court. The criminal defense lawyers at the law firm of Villani & DeLuca have years of experience representing clients charged with DWI throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey. Villani & DeLuca attorney Carmine Villani, Esq. is trained in both standard field sobriety tests and the Alcotest, the breathalyzer used by law enforcement in New Jersey. Call Villani & DeLuca today to receive your free initial consultation!