Alcoholic Beverage Trade Association Calls New Jersey DWI Checkpoints Ineffective at Catching Drunk Drivers

Recent comments by a beverage trade group calls for an end to drunken driving checkpoint and DUI roadblocks here in the Garden State and elsewhere across the nation. As a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney, I understand the legal requirements that must be met for a DWI checkpoint to be operated within the laws of this state, as well as the law of the land, the United States Constitution.

And while most drunk driving roadblocks meet the legal requirements of New Jersey, there are many people out there who feel that whether or not these checkpoints are legal they may not be very effective at catching motorists who driver their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication or even illegal drugs such as cocaine and marijuana, also known as weed or cannabis.

One group that is questioning the efficacy of drunken driving roadblocks is the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which recently called for an end to this kind of police enforcement practice. The ABI’s comments, according to reports, include accusations that DWI-DUI checkpoints harass responsible drinkers.

The ABI has called checkpoints ineffective because they result in, on average according to the group, only about three drunken driving arrests out of every 1,000 motorists stopped. Based on this, the ABI has urged state and local law enforcement officials to only use so-called roving patrols. Using such tactics, according to news articles, the police would patrol city and rural streets looking for vehicles that are being driven in an erratic manner.

While police officials throughout New Jersey agree that roving patrols are a useful tool, they insist that sobriety roadblocks are valuable as well. This, police say, is true even if groups like the ABI say that most drivers who are pulled over at these checkpoints are never charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Still, the ABI maintains that checkpoints harass responsible adults who have been drinking moderately prior to getting behind the wheel of their cars. The group, which represents 8,000 restaurants, says that roving patrols target the real problem, namely “hard-core” alcohol abusers.

Arguing that taxpayer dollars are more or less wasted on such an ineffective method of DWI enforcement, the ABI believes that people who worry that they might get “yanked out of their car to stand in the cold and recite the alphabet” are probably not going to have even one drink. According to the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office, every good highway safety program uses a mix of checkpoints and roving patrols, according to news articles.

Based on comments from some law enforcement authorities, checkpoints can and do result in fewer arrests, however police are quick to add that these roadblocks are also employed as both a deterrent and a means of educating the public.

Beverage trade group calls for end to police DUI checkpoints, NJ.com, December 29, 2010
OPINION: Sobriety checkpoints still a vital part of DUI detection, LehighValleyLive.com, December 31, 2010