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DWI Checkpoint & Roadblock Arrest Defenses

Unconstitutional dui roadblocks can be a DWI defense

Challenge the State in Proving the Validity of DUI Checkpoints

If you have been arrested at a DWI checkpoint in New Jersey, give my office a call to speak with an attorney experienced in defending these cases. In addition to the typical defenses available in DWI cases, DWI roadblock and checkpoint law offers additional options.

Because the roadblock is a warrantless seizure, and as such is presumed to be invalid, the State has the burden of proving its overall reasonableness and validity. State v. Valencia, 93 N.J. 126, 133 (1983). To be constitutionally valid, the roadblock must be conducted in a manner “calculated in advance to provide the least possible intrusion into the public’s freedom and sense of security.” State v. Mazurek, 237 N.J. Super. 231, 236 (App. Div. 1989).

Under the search and seizure provision of the New Jersey Constitution, Article I, paragraph 7, roadblocks established on a purely discretionary basis are invalid. State v. Kirk, 202 N.J. Super. 28, 38-44 (App. Div. 1985). In order to pass muster under the New Jersey state constitution, a roadblock or checkpoint must be established for a specific need and to achieve a particular purpose at a specific place. Id. at 37.

A DWI checkpoint should be: (1) established by a command or supervisory authority; (2) carefully targeted to a designated area at a specified time and place based on data justifying the site selection for reasons of public safety and reasonably efficacious or productive law enforcement goals. Id. at 40.

Factors In Determining the Constitutionality of a DWI Checkpoint

  1. The degree of discretion, if any, left to the officer in the field;
  2. The location designated for the roadblock;
  3. The time and duration of the roadblock;
  4. Standards set by superior officers;
  5. Advance notice to the public at large;
  6. Advance warning to the individual approaching motorist;
  7. maintenance of safety conditions;
  8. degree of fear or anxiety generated by the mode of operation;
  9. average length of time each motorist is detained;
  10. physical factors surrounding the location, type and method of operation;
  11. the availability of less intrusive methods for combating the problem;
  12. the degree of effectiveness of the procedure; and
  13. any other relevant circumstances which might bear upon the test.
[State v. Flowers, 328 N.J. Super. 205, 216-217 (App. Div. 2000) (quoting State v. Deskins, 234 Kan. 529, 673 P.2d 1174, 1185 (1983)).]

Examples of Unconstitutional New Jersey DWI Checkpoints

In State v. DeCamera, 237 N.J. Super. 380, 383 (App. Div. 1989), a panel of the Appellate Division determined that advanced media publicity is not a prerequisite to the validity of a roadblock. Ibid. In State v. Moskal, 246 N.J. Super. 12, 19 (App. Div. 1991), the court stated that “[a]ll that is necessary within the State v. Kirk framework are the proper on-the-scene warnings (a sign stating that the motorist is about to be stopped and the nature of the stop, flashing lights, police vehicles and uniformed officers) to comply fully with State and Federal constitutional requirements.”

The participation by high-level administrative officials is “an essential constitutional ingredient and necessary to satisfy the objection that the traveler not be ‘subject to the discretion of the official in the field.’” State v. Egan, 213 N.J. Super. 133, 136 (App. Div. 1986), citing Kirk, supra at 43.

In Egan, Appellate Division held that the ranking supervisory authority in charge of the police department at that particular time did not constitute the requisite “participation of command or supervisory authority” in selecting the time and place of the roadblock.” Egan also mandated that the State provide data necessary to demonstrate a “rational basis for deploying this type of intrusive law enforcement technique.” Id. at 136.

Additional Facets in Proving DUI Roadblock Constitutionals

In many cases, the selection of the checkpoint location and the manner in which it was set up and conducted may be argued to be ad hoc, like in Egan.

In other cases, no evidence is provided to show that the public was notified of the checkpoint in print or web media. Police may also fail to show empirical demonstrating that the location of the checkpoint was “carefully targeted to a designated area at a specified time and place based on data justifying the site selection.”

Another argument is that the officer had complete discretion over which vehicles were selected within the checkpoint. The police may also conduct roadblocks contrary to their own internal guidelines. By being creating and thorough, it may be possible to convince a court that the roadblock in your case was unconstitutional. Call The Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC for a consultation so we can discuss what defenses may be available in your case.

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