Articles Posted in Sobriety Checkpoints

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.
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Being long-time trial attorneys skilled in the defense of individuals accused of civil and criminal offenses, we understand how there are some people who still are inclined not to take a DWI or drug DUI arrest that seriously. However, as professional drunk driving defense lawyers, we can say without much hesitation that while being arrested may not always get a person’s attention at the time, being thrust into a DWI-DUI court hearing while facing some hefty monetary penalties usually does.

Here in the Garden State, my colleagues and I make it our job to help those motorists who have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by doctor-prescribed medication or another controlled dangerous substance (CDS). We certainly do understand the financial burden that a DWI or drug DUI conviction can have on many individuals, not only in terms of fines and assessments, but also in the way that a loss of personal mobility can affect the ability to perform one’s job or simply go about daily life.

It’s always interesting to read about the increase in anti-drunken driving enforcement as certain holidays approach or when vacation season is at its zenith. However, there are always local police patrols — as well as state trooper units — that are constantly on the lookout for potentially impaired drivers. Here in New Jersey, where the frequency of anti-DWI campaigns can be very high, drunken driving saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints are also common. Sometimes, there is no particular campaign in effect, but simply a police presence on certain roadways that have frequent DWI incidents.
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This being the Garden State it is not unusual to read about dozens of drunk driving arrests and drug-related DUI cases emanating any particular portion of the state. Certainly, Essex County is only one of a dozen or so jurisdictions that see concentrations of heavy DWI patrols and roadside sobriety checkpoint activities from time to time. As skilled DWI-DUI defense lawyers, the attorneys are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are familiar with the potential volume of drunken driving cases moving through our state’s court system every month.

When considering cause and effect, it can be stated with a fair amount of certainty that an increase in anti-DWI and drug-DUI enforcement can have a direct impact on the number of drunken driving arrests in any one area, and as a result, more drunken driving cases in municipal courtrooms throughout these areas. We take no joy in the increased incidence of drunken driving, regardless of the reasons, but we are aware that a percentage of DWI arrests are based on weak or insufficient evidence.

In towns and cities all around New Jersey, the summertime driving season brings with it the promise of increased drunk driving patrols and other traffic safety enforcement efforts. Being DWI defense attorneys, I and my staff of experienced DWI lawyers fully understand how some drunk driving arrests may either be unwarranted or faulty in some way, shape or form. This is why we also recommend that any driver accused of DWI or drug DUI should, at the very least, consult a qualified DWI lawyer to better understand his or her options going forward.
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It is not uncommon for the New Jersey State Police, as well as local and municipal police departments, to carry out some rather heavy anti-drunk driving mobile patrols at various times during the year. If you are from New Jersey or find yourself driving through the Garden State on a fairly regular basis, you likely have noticed this kind of DWI enforcement presence from time to time.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, we are in a position to provide legal services to those motorists who have been accused of operating their car, truck or motorcycle in violation of state laws pertaining to driving while intoxicated or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Fortunately, here in the Garden State, DWI offenses have yet to be criminalized.
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As DWI attorneys representing New Jersey motorists and other individuals charged with one of many drunk driving or drug DUI offenses, my legal team has decades of collective courtroom experience defending drivers accused of driving a car, truck or motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance (CDS).

Although we defend people who have been hit with a drunken or impaired driving summons, as motorists ourselves we are generally happy to know that state and local law enforcement officers work hard each day to maintain safety on Garden State roadways. However, though we commend the hard work of the law enforcement community for keeping our cities, towns and local communities safe from criminals and other more dangerous individuals, we do reserve the right to challenge the actions of some police officers and state troopers.

As a former municipal prosecuting attorney myself, I understand the extreme pressure that policemen find themselves under from one day to the next. So we are never truly surprised when we see, from time to time, the results of unjustified or groundless drunken driving arrests. From our extensive experience, I and my experienced team of DWI-DUI defense lawyers understand that a certain percentage of drunk driving arrests do not result in a DWI conviction. That’s a fact.
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As long as DWI checkpoints and sobriety roadblocks have been used in this state there have been detractors who ask if the cost in equipment, manpower and officer overtime is really worth the effort of bringing in a handful of alleged drunken drivers from time to time. Here in the Garden State, the random operation of sobriety checkpoints certainly has given more than one driver pause to get behind the wheel of his or her car following an evening with friends at a restaurant, bar or private residence.

As long-time DWI defense attorneys, I and my team of experienced trial lawyers have dedicated ourselves to helping those motorists who believe that they did not deserve being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One of the many ways in which New Jersey drivers end up in front of a municipal or county judge is when they are arrested for DWI or drug DUI at one of the numerous drunk driving roadblocks that go up on weekends and during various national holidays.

Although law enforcement agencies throughout the state have it in their authority to set up sobriety roadblocks, there are limitations and rules that must be followed. For example, the police are required by law to place a public announcement (stating when and where) prior to the erection of any sobriety or DWI checkpoint. Furthermore, the placement of these roadblocks must be in an area that has a history of prior DWI activity; in other words, they cannot be placed anywhere the police authorities choose.
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Many of our clients and potential clients express concern about a police officer’s justification for making a drunk driving stop. And rightly so, since portions of both the U.S. Constitution and that of the State of New Jersey have been written with the intent of protecting individuals from, among other things, unreasonable motor vehicle stops. As professional trial attorneys, we are dedicated to fighting for our clients’ rights and we know that the law does not allow the police to stop someone, nor subject them to a detention from free movement, unless the police have a legitimate reason for doing so.

When it comes to the reason for making a legitimate traffic stop that may or may not result in a DWI or drug DUI arrest, the law requires that a police office must have an “articulable and reasonable suspicion” that the subject, or driver in this case, has violated some article of the law. The standard that can be applied to this kind of a proper traffic stop may include first-hand observation of a motorist’s driving behavior, or it can be based on information phoned in or otherwise communicated to the police by a third party(s), such as information provided by other law enforcement entities in the way of motor vehicle look-up info, radio transmissions from roving patrols to be on the lookout for a certain vehicle, etc.

Sometimes we are asked if an anonymous tip from another driver or pedestrian is sufficient evidence on which to base a legal traffic stop. In short, an anonymous source can only be used if it is reliable or based on something that can only be established through corroboration of facts. What this means, typically, is that the officer must confirm certain facts alleged by the tipster before effecting the traffic stop. (Note that the only exception to this requirement is where the community caretaker function or a valid roadblock apply.)

With an articulable and reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law has taken place on the roadway, a municipal patrolman or state trooper is then free to make a proper motor vehicle stop. Many times, these incidents may be the result of an observed traffic offense, such as speeding, improper passing, failure to yield at a traffic light, failing to signal a lane change or turn, or any number of other infractions that a police office is able to see happen.

In some cases, a physical problem with the subject’s automobile, truck or motorcycle may result in a routine traffic stop if the problem is in violation of the state’s traffic laws. Inoperative headlamps, taillights, license plate light or signal lamps may trigger a police stop. Similarly, defective vehicle mechanical items that could affect the safety of the occupants of the subject’s vehicle, other motorists and passengers sharing the road, or pedestrians near the roadway on which the subject’s vehicle is traveling may also provide a valid reason for a stop.
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There is a good chance that as a motorist here in the Garden State, you or someone you know may have either seen or been subject to one of the many drunken driving roadblocks that pop up here and there across the state every month. For those who are unfamiliar with these “tools of the trade,” understand that they are designed to catch motorists who may be intoxicated behind the wheel by being located in areas know to have a statistically high incidence of DWI.

As New Jersey drunk driving lawyers, we seem to get numerous questions from potential clients regarding the legitimacy of these roadblocks, or DWI checkpoints as they are also referred. When asked by prospective clients, we must tell them that, yes, the constitutionality of these police roadblocks was addressed (back in 1979) by none other than the U.S. Supreme Court (Delaware v. Prouse).

In the aforementioned case, it was decided that it was unconstitutional to stop and detain a motorist without articulable suspicion that he or she is either unlicensed, his or her car is unregistered, or the vehicle or its occupant(s) is otherwise subject to seizure for a violation of law. This seemed like a win for those opposed to sobriety checkpoints, however the issue was again addressed here in New Jersey (State v. Kirk) in the 1980s.
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Here in New Jersey, the frequency of drunk driving arrests keeps state and local police busy, not to mention the courts and DWI defense lawyers such as the experienced legal team at my law firm. The typical cases that we see quite a few of are the usual drunk driving offenses that developing out of a routine traffic stop, which likely was precipitated by a fairly minor moving violation or vehicle infraction. The more serious cases involve actual property damage or personal injuries coupled with an accusation of drunken driving.

Of course, drunk driving, or DWI, is only one kind of impairment-related driving offense. When reading the various and sundry news items in Garden State newspapers or online, quite often one will come across references to DUI arrest. While DWI and DUI are used interchangeably by the public, the latter is an abbreviation for driving under the influence. The only question here would be: Under the influence of what?

For many motorists arrested for DWI or DUI, alcohol is the usual substance causing the alleged impaired vehicle operation. However, there is a segment of those arrested for impaired driving who may never have touched a drop of alcohol prior to their arrest on a New Jersey roadway or at a sobriety checkpoint. For those individuals, the police typically look for some kind of narcotic drug use (pointing to a possible charge of drug DUI).
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Ever known someone who was arrested for driving while intoxicated? Yes, well join the club. No? Just give it a little time. Here in the Garden State, drunken driving seems to be a common activity, as is being arrested for same. One thing is certain; wait a few days and you’re bound to hear about yet another person charged with DWI, or driving while impaired by prescription drugs or illegal substances.

The list of possible charges is not particularly long, but the reasons why motorists get stopped for a seemingly insignificant moving violation or traffic infraction and then go on to be taken into custody by police — then charged with an alcohol or drug-related offense — are many and varied. As a former municipal prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney, I began this law firm to help fight for people who have been accused of DWI-DUI.

One only has to look at the news each day to see the numerous instances of New Jersey motorists being slapped with single and even multiple charges of driving while intoxicated, breath test refusal, impaired driving, possession of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia and other serious traffic-related offenses. The following are just a sampling of incidents that took place in Union County not too long ago:
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