Success can be measured in many ways. For the police it can often mean the total number of traffic tickets or felony arrests over a month’s time. When it comes to sobriety checkpoints, we often read of successful efforts resulting in drunken driving and drug DUI charges against motorists who were pulled over at any number of roadside DWI checkpoints. The result, for many of the drivers served summonses at these locations may be fines or even jail time, depending on their particular circumstances.
As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, we have seen numerous individuals who have been stopped at one of these late evening police roadblocks only to be arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Despite concerns over the legality of sobriety checkpoints, the practice continues all across the Garden State.
Known variously as DUI checkpoints, drunk driving roadblocks or DWI checkpoints, the purpose of these so-called sobriety roadblocks is primarily to deter motorists from driving their vehicles vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication, or an illegal substances (also known as a controlled dangerous substance or CDS).
The police departments who set up these roadblocks usually select locations, based on New Jersey’s DWI-DUI statistics, in areas that have a statistically high level of impaired driving activity. While most checkpoints are operated in the late evening and early morning hours, the law states that police authorities must make the time and locations available to the public prior to their operation.
Although the legality of sobriety checkpoints has continued to be disputed subject, many legal experts believe that DWI-DUI checkpoints here in New Jersey actually violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Despite opponents’ arguments regarding infringement of Fourth Amendment rights, the United States Supreme Court continues to uphold the constitutionality of these drunk driving checkpoints.
The basis of the support for roadside DWI checkpoints has usually been the balance between the legality of these checkpoints and the justified “necessary” intrusion into a driver’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures because the police are working in the public’s best interest; that of keeping drunken drivers off the roadways.
Whether one agrees with the rulings handed down in the past, the reality is that roadside checkpoints are here to stay for now. If you are ever stopped at one of these locations for a spot check regarding your sobriety, the law does require a person to provide identification, including one’s name, address, driver’s license, as well as vehicle registration. It is important to understand that although an officer may continue to ask questions of a driver, some of which may seem routine and relatively innocuous, a motorist is not legally required to respond.
Beyond the basic information previously mentioned, a polite refusal to answer further questions is legally acceptable. Furthermore, an officer may request permission to do a search of the vehicle, which a driver has the legal right, again, to politely refuse. The manner in which a patrolman responds or acts following a driver’s refusal for additional information or a search of the vehicle can actually be used against that officer during a DWI-DUI case.
We often read about drivers being charged with DWI as a result of an encounter with a DWI roadblock. One that took place at the end of last summer in Bayville, NJ, netted the police three drunk drivers and one individual who was charged with CDS possession in a motor vehicle. The checkpoint was erected along a stretch of Rte 9 near the Berkeley Township Recreation Center.
In addition to the four motorists mentioned above, three other drivers were arrested for outstanding warrants during the Saturday night/Sunday morning roadblock. According to news reports, the checkpoint ran from 10pm until 2am, and was operated with the cooperation of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. As part of the overall operation, Berkely Twp. Police also impounded three vehicles, based on “John’s Law.”
The local police were assisted by Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s) from the Toms River PD, as well as officers from the Manchester police, personnel from the Pinewald Pioneer Fire Department and Berkeley Twp. Haz-Mat Unit.
Berkeley Police Department Conducts A ‘Very Successful’ DWI Checkpoint, Patch.com, September 1, 2013