New Jersey drivers frequently encounter roadside sobriety checkpoints. These checkpoints are designed to investigate whether drivers have valid licenses and whether they are driving under the influence of alcohol or driving on drugs. DWI checkpoints are fairly unique, along with border patrol checkpoints, because they permit the police to briefly stop and interview motorists even though the police do not have a warrant and generally do not have any particularized suspicion that the driver has committed a crime. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court has stated that these sobriety and license checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless searches and seizures.
Notably, a DWI checkpoint is only considered valid if the police employ a number of safeguards to protect the rights of innocent citizens. If you plan to drive in New Jersey, you should know the legal requirements that must be met for a valid DUI checkpoint. If you have already been arrested and are facing DWI charges after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, your next step should be to get in touch with an experienced DWI attorney. The highly trained DUI defense lawyers at our Hudson County firm are available immediately to assist you with charges out of Hoboken, Jersey City, Secaucus, Weehawken, Union City, Harrison, or elsewhere in New Jersey. Call (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation today.
Constitutionality of DWI Checkpoints in New Jersey
DWI checkpoints are an exception to the Constitution’s standard Fourth Amendment requirement that police first have a warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed to stop and/or detain motorists. To avoid violating the Fourth Amendment, the police must follow a number of procedural safeguards to establish the validity of any DWI checkpoint conducted in NJ. If the police fail to adhere to these legal requirements, a person charged with DWI after a checkpoint stop has grounds to contest the validity of their arrest in court and potentially convince the court to suppress any evidence obtained by the police at the checkpoint or subsequent to the checkpoint stop. This includes any admissions made by the defendant and chemical test results obtained to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol in the defendant’s blood.
What Police Must Do When Running an NJ DUI Checkpoint
There are a number of procedural steps and requirements that local police must satisfy to set up a valid DWI checkpoint in New Jersey. First, the police must establish a valid reason for establishing a DWI checkpoint in the particular location at issue. Police typically meet this requirement by presenting statistical data on the number of DWI arrests made in the area where they set up the checkpoint, and a police supervisor (typically on the lieutenant or captain level, although sometimes at the police sergeant level) must have been involved in choosing the location based on these statistics or for some other valid reason.
Second, sobriety checkpoints must establish a neutral screening method for selecting which drivers are stopped and which are allowed to pass through the checkpoint without an interview or other screening. This method should not leave the decision on who to stop up to an individual officer’s discretion, given the potential for bias and profiling. The selection process must be objectively fair and neutral. Officers will typically select cars for screening based on counting the number of cars that have passed through the checkpoint. Third, checkpoints must be clearly marked and identified, typically with signs, cones, and an adequate and safe level of lighting. Officers may advertise the checkpoint and its location to alert the public about it in advance. Fourth, officers must ensure that checkpoint stops do not detain drivers for an unreasonably long period of time.
Charged With DWI at a Checkpoint in Jersey City, NJ
If you have been arrested on drunk driving charges after being stopped at a DWI checkpoint, you should consult a qualified New Jersey criminal defense attorney to discuss the facts related to your particular checkpoint arrest and whether the DWI checkpoint where you were stopped complied with federal and state law. Our experienced New Jersey DUI attorneys have successfully handled DWI cases involving first offenses, second offenses, third offenses, DWI in a school zone, and refusal to provide a breath sample for numerous clients across the state. Contact us now at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation about your case.