As many Garden State drivers already know, DWI and drug DUI roadblocks are frequent, if not somewhat random, occurrences throughout the New Jersey area. As Red Bank drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleague and I know that a percentage of motorists who are charged with DWI end up being arrested for intoxicated driving at these so-called sobriety checkpoints, which show up in certain “trouble spots” in and around Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic County, as well as numerous other parts of the state.
For the average person who turns up at one of these drunk driving roadblocks, if he or she has had any amount of alcohol to drink prior to the encounter, a potential nightmare scenario is being taken into custody on suspicion of DWI-DUI. Simply one or two bottles of beer or glasses of wine during dinner can sometimes result in a major legal problem for any driver charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. We are well aware of this because we defend many individuals who have been accused of drunken driving, as well as other alcohol- and drug-related traffic offenses.
My legal team also understands that when it comes to being stopped at a DWI checkpoint, those who are arrested or served a summons for drunken driving are many times curious whether these commonly used police enforcement tools are actually legal under the laws of the State of New Jersey, not to mention that of the U.S. Constitution. Clients may often ask about the fairness of DWI-DUI roadblocks, which is completely understandable given the random nature of these checkpoints.
The short answer to the question of constitutionality of New Jersey drunk driving roadblocks is a qualified “yes.” However, it should be noted that there is a variety of case law that has paralleled the development and use of DWI checkpoints over the past 40 years. Important cases such as Delaware v. Prouse (440 U.S. 648) in 1979, State v. Kirk (202 N.J. Super 28) in 1985, and State v. Moskal (246 N.J. Super 12) in 1991 have all contributed to the way in which police use drunk driving roadblocks, even to this day.
Because of these aforementioned cases, there are rather strict legal requirements with which law enforcement agencies in New Jersey must comply when erecting and operating roadblocks. Of course, this may come as little consolation for those already charged with DWI, drug DUI, possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), or some other alcohol or drug-related traffic offense. However, given that someone may have already been arrested for a DWI-DUI offense, there are other defense-related issues that must always be explored, which is why we recommend speaking with a qualified legal expert.
Sometimes there are other extenuating circumstances that can make the legal defense against a drunken driving charge more complicated, such as accidents, injuries and fatal traffic collisions. Take, for instance, a story out of Bergen County in which a man was charged not only with DWI, but also vehicular assault following an alleged DWI-related collision with a police cruiser at a sobriety checkpoint in Elmwood Park, NJ, a little over a week ago.
According to police, a patrolman was sitting in his vehicle along a stretch of westbound Rte 46 when another vehicle struck the officer’s patrol car around 4am. Fortunately for everyone, the policeman received only minor injuries, however the 23-year-old local resident was criminally charged with vehicular assault, which is a fourth-degree criminal offense. The man was also charged with driving under the influence, as well as careless and reckless driving, plus failure to obey a traffic control device and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.
These kinds of accident-related incidents coupled with a charge of alcohol- or drug-related traffic violation are not desirable, but they are hardly a reason to give up prematurely when considering challenging the charges levied by the state. Consulting an experienced DWI-DUI defense attorney is always a good step toward fighting most any impaired driving charge.
Car crashes into Elmwood Park police cruiser at DWI checkpoint, NorthJersey.com, July 20, 2014