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DWI – DUI Checkpoints in New Jersey

27
Oct
2009

by in DWI Defense

DWI – DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are common in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. In New Jersey, DWI checkpoints were originally set up to “inform the public about the dangers of drunk driving.” However, they clearly serve a more practical use – producing arrests of New Jersey drivers for drunk driving.

A vehicle which is pulled over at a DWI – DUI checkpoint, is technically “seized” within the meaning of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. However, the United States Supreme Court found in the 1990 case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz that the use of DWI – DUI roadblocks is reasonable under the Constitution since the inconvenience to drivers pulled over is greatly outweighed by the harm drunk drivers pose to the public.

New Jersey DWI – DUI law was ahead of the curve. In 1985, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in State v. Kirk that DWI – DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are legal as long as police satisfy three criteria. These are that: 1) the roadblocks must be authorized by an “established” (meaning high level – a Sergeant was once deemed not senior enough to authorize) police command authority, 2) the area targeted must be chosen based on objective criteria, such as being statistically high-risk, and 3) Proper advance warnings must be given to the public. Note that this last requirement was later eliminated in State v. DeCamera.

The Court in Kirk also identified other factors determining whether a particular DWI – DUI checkpoint is constitutional. These include the amount of discretion given to the officers, the time and duration of the roadblock, and the particular facts of each case.

The Courts have also found particular reasons to find roadblocks unconstitutional. Examples include State v. Barcia (1989) and State v. Badessa (2005), both holding that police must post signs ahead of the roadblock informing drivers that if they pull onto an intersecting street before the checkpoint they will be pulled over. Another example is State v. Egan (1986), where the Court found that an ad-hoc decision by a Sergeant to set up a DWI – DUI checkpoint was not approved at a high-enough level.

If you are stopped at a DWI – DUI checkpoint, you should follow the instructions of the officers and do the best you can on the sobriety tests. Remember, you DO NOT have the right to refuse to give a breath test. Doing so will lead to another charge which carries a six-month loss of license for a first offense. Do not give any incriminating statements. After you are released, contact a Freehold area DWI – DUI lawyer for free evaluation of your case.

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