Here in the Garden State, DWI checkpoints (or drunk driving roadblocks, by which they are also referred) are a common tool used by police departments to help decrease the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents, as well as to signal to drivers that drunk driving is in no way being tolerated any more. That said, it is still rather confusing to the general public regarding the how and why of these seemingly invasive means of generating DWI arrests.
Because the U.S. Constitution protects the public from unreasonable search and seizure, many trial lawyers find the use of sobriety roadblocks and DWI checkpoints somewhat of an affront to the basic rights afforded citizens by the Bill of Rights. Yet, despite the fundamental argument that motorist should be protected against unreasonable search or seizure by the police during a traffic stop, the Supreme Court has previously upheld the constitutionality of drunk driving checkpoints as a means for ensuring the public good.
As most any New Jersey driver is no doubt aware, anti-drunken driving enforcement in the Garden State is undertaken in a number of different ways depending on the season or circumstances. Enhanced roving drunk driving police patrols throughout counties like Hudson, Atlantic, Bergen and Middlesex are often employed before and during popular holidays such as July Fourth, Memorial Day and New Year’s. The use of DWI-DUI checkpoints and sobriety roadblocks is also thought to catch a percentage of motorists who may be inebriated behind the wheel.
Drunken driving roadblocks, which must be set up according to legal requirements established by the courts, can be found from time to time in various locations all over the state. These roadside checkpoints are usually encountered in the late evening and early morning hours on weekends. Their locations must be chosen based on the statistically high incidence of drunken driving in the particular area where they are erected.
The legal requirements regarding placement of a checkpoint has to do with two main points. The first is that law enforcement officials must be able to show that statistical data demonstrates that the particular stretch of roadway on which the roadblock is sited is a prime location for drunk driving incidents. Second, the police must provide the public with advance notice of any roadblock scheduled for an area. With regard to the latter, the courts have required state, county and municipal law enforcement authorities to publish the locations, dates and times of future sobriety roadblocks.
Regardless of the advance notice, it is a certainty that most any sobriety checkpoint will eventually catch one or more motorists who may be legally intoxicated. Police officers at one such DWI roadblock in Berkeley Twp., NJ, arrested and charged four individuals with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol during Labor Day weekend last September.
Of those stopped at that Ocean County roadside checkpoint along a portion of Rte 9 near the township’s recreation center, three people were charged with DWI, while one driver was charged with possession of marijuana (less than 50g). Three others were stopped and arrested on outstanding warrants. Police ended up impounding three cars in accordance with “John’s Law” and issued some additional citations for other traffic or motor vehicle violations, of which three drivers were found to have been driving an unregistered motor vehicle.
Police Release Names Of Those Arrested During DWI Checkpoint, Patch.com, September 4, 2013