Most every adult here in the Garden State who drives a car has noticed over the years that police traffic enforcement generally ramps up as the weather gets warmer and the vacationers start a migration to the famous Jersey Shore. While the spring and summer revelry is always a welcome change from the freezing temperatures of winter, some changes are not always that pleasant. In particular the opportunity for traffic citations and, occasionally, an alcohol or drug-related arrest.
As New Jersey drunk driving attorneys, we receive a number of questions from friends and acquaintances, as well as potential clients, regarding the legitimacy of certain kinds of drunk driving enforcement; namely, the random erection of late-night drunk driving roadblocks, also known as sobriety checkpoints. Depending on where you live, the frequency of these “tools” of law enforcement can rise or fall based on the time of year of the funding available to staff them.
One of the many questions we get is whether or not sobriety checkpoints are legal in New Jersey, or if they are even constitutionally allowed. When asked, we must tell people that, in fact, DWI checkpoints are legal, both on a state and federal level. From a constitutional standpoint, the issue of police roadblocks was addressed in successive cases starting back in 1979, when the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Delaware v. Prouse.
In the decision coming out of Delaware v. Prouse the Court held that it was unconstitutional to stop/detain a person without articulable suspicion that the motorist is either unlicensed, that his vehicle is unregistered, or that the occupants or the vehicle itself is otherwise subject to seizure based on some violation of law. While this case was not a win for the police and those who supported the use of sobriety checkpoints, another case heard in New Jersey moved the argument closer to the subject at hand.
Later, during the 1980s, the case of State v. Kirk was heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court. In that action, the Court held that temporary roadblocks set up by the police were unconstitutional, but only in the “absence” of various safeguards. These included identifying certain standard procedures to ensure the proper supervision of any particular checkpoint, as well as providing a warning to motorists in advance of a roadblock being erected. In related cases that followed, such as State v. Moskal, other requirements were established to ensure that valid checkpoints would only be set up n locations had a history of drunk driving arrests.
Taking that all in may be a bit much, but the real focus of today’s message is based on the fact that with summertime looming, the opportunities for being stopped by a police officer may increase as enforcement patrols and DWI checkpoints hit their stride throughout the state, but also in Monmouth and Ocean counties. As part of this, according to news reports, the police departments in and around the Jersey shore area will begin their “seasonal crackdown” on those vacationers who enjoy “brown-bagging” their alcoholic beverages along the boardwalk.
With the added attention to those people who imbibe while on-foot, the odds of those self-same individuals being tagged on the way back home when traveling in their vehicles is also increased, or so one would assume given the history of DWI-DUI enforcement in this part of the state. As we have said before, one of the best ways to avoid a DWI summons is just to avoid drinking and driving. Enjoy the summer and stay safe.
Monmouth and Ocean counties will double their police forces this summer, SILive.com, May 23, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated May 27, 2014