DUI checkpoints, which are called Sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks in the state of New Jersey, are when law enforcement officers stop vehicles at a predetermined fixed location in an effort to find drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs. The idea behind the checkpoint is to deter drunk driving in locations where DWI is statistically determined to occur more often. Usually the checkpoints are set up late at night or early in the morning when they believe a greater number of people will be driving under the influence.
Are DUI Checkpoints Constitutional?
In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of DUI roadblocks in the case Michigan v. Sitz with a 5 to 4 vote. They felt that a DUI checkpoint is not an illegal search and seizure, because the intrusion was justified by the public interest in reducing DUI. These checkpoints were specifically permitted to detect DUI. But DUI checkpoints have not been nearly as effective as roaming patrols at arresting people for DUI.
However, citations for other issues, such as out-of-date registration, expired driver’s license, tinted windows, and defective tail lights can be issued at the DWI roadblocks. These citations bring in fees to the local government, yet they are being collected under the guise of a DWI.
Many legal experts continue to believe that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Michigan v. Sitz case was incorrect, because the fourth amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and makes no exception for roadblocks. Many DUI lawyers call this ruling “the DUI exception to the Constitution.”
What to Do If You Are Stopped
Before arriving at the New Jersey DWI checkpoint, you can drive to avoid it, such as making a legal U-turn or turning on to another street. Make sure you are doing a legal maneuver and using your turn signal. However, if you cannot legally drive around the DUI checkpoint, you may be stopped by the officer. You are required to pull over and provide identification to the officer. Then you may be asked to provide your name, address, driver’s license, and registration.
However, if the officer asks any more questions, even if they seem routine, you can decline to answer. You can unintentionally incriminate yourself by answering seemingly harmless questions.
If the officer asks you to take field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line or touching your nose, you are not required to do so and may (politely) refuse. Additionally, if the officer asks to search your car, this means he or she does not have legal grounds to do so, and you can also refuse this request.
If You Are Arrested at a New Jersey DUI Checkpoint
Be aware that even if you fail a breath test, you have options. There are many reasons why the results may have been incorrect, such as improper usage of the test, incorrect machine calibration, and differences in your body physiology. To find out what your options are, you should consult an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney as soon as possible.