DUI checkpoints are a point where a police officer signals the driver to stop. Checkpoints are used specifically to test drivers for possible intoxication.
Is A DWI Checkpoint Legal In NJ?
Yes, the New Jersey law enforcement is actively trying to prevent drunk driving by implementing DUI checkpoints. However, police officers must follow strict laws when conducting the roadblocks.
Let’s discuss what you can expect from a DUI checkpoint.
What to Expect at a DUI Checkpoint?
It’s important to note that New Jersey may refer to DUI as DWI. These two acronyms refer to the same thing. DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWI is driving while intoxicated.
DUI checkpoints typically occur around intersections and during times when impaired driving is most likely to happen, such as weekends, nights, and holidays. The areas of checkpoints usually are sporting events, concerts, nightspots, and other venues where people are likely to be consuming alcohol.
If an officer signals to stop your vehicle, you must obey their commands. The officer will ask for your vehicle registration, driver’s license, and proof of insurance. At this time, the officer will watch for potential signals of intoxication such as:
- An alcohol odor
- Slurred speech
- Inability to focus
- Bloodshot eyes
If the officer suspects that you’re driving under the influence, you’ll be asked to step out of the vehicle. Then, the officer will administer a field sobriety test, which will consist of one or more of these tests:
- Walk and Turn Test: You’ll be asked to walk forward nine steps and then return in the same fashion. This will test whether you’re in balance and can follow directions.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The police officer will ask you to follow their penlight to check for any sudden or jerky eye movements. They will track your ability to follow their object with your eyes. Alcohol affects the ability of a person to control their sideways eye movements properly.
- The One-Leg Stand Test: With this test, you’ll be asked to stand on one leg with the other foot raised about six inches off the ground and count aloud for 30 seconds. Putting your foot down, swaying, or using arms to maintain balance will indicate a failure.
What are Your Rights if Stopped at a Checkpoint for DUI?
In NJ, all drivers must stop and provide the requested information to the officer.
If the officer requests a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, you must follow the implied consent laws. Refusing to take the tests when asked will result in failure.
Although checkpoints are constitutional in New Jersey, that doesn’t permit police officers to do what they want freely.
Here are some of the standards that the checkpoints must adhere to:
- The sobriety roadblock needs to be announced in advance.
- If the driver doesn’t show any signs of intoxication, they should be allowed to leave when the questioning is over freely.
- The roadblocks for DUI must have clear signage, lettering, and lighting.
- The stops must be randomly selected.
It’s also important to know that you don’t have to answer questions not pertaining to the basic information. For example, the police officer may ask you, “where are you heading this evening?” It’s best not to incriminate yourself by saying something that could hurt your situation. You can simply say you are exercising your right to remain silent and will only speak once consulting with your lawyer.
Can You Turn Around if You See a Drunk Driving Checkpoint?
Although you can change the course of your direction away from the sobriety checkpoint, you aren’t allowed to make sudden U-turn or veer off to a different street right before the checkpoint. In court, it’ll only support the officer’s case to stop you based on suspicion.
In addition, you can’t make an illegal maneuver away from the roadblock, such as turning into a one-way street or other illegal maneuvers.
Why are DUI Checkpoints Legal Despite the 4th Amendment?
Law enforcement has been using sobriety roadblocks for many years. Typically, the U.S. 4th Amendment prohibits a police officer from stopping your vehicle without a reasonable basis for suspecting any illegal activity. But with DUI checkpoints, police officers will stop all vehicles. So how is this legal?
A 1990 case called the Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz determined that the harm that drunk drivers could cause is greater than the harm or inconvenience of stopping a driver.
After this important ruling, the Supreme Court left each state to make its own judgment as to whether the sobriety roadblock should be legal or not.
How To Deal With An Arrest At A Sobriety Checkpoint
If you’re ever arrested at a DUI checkpoint for intoxicated driving, you’ll need to know your available options. The officer must follow a set of rules when performing the checkpoint; otherwise, the arrest can be invalid, and charges may be lifted.
First off, there should be sufficient notice of the DUI checkpoint in a public setting. In addition, during the field sobriety tests, the driver must be on level ground; otherwise, other factors may affect the test results.
If a breath test was given, the officer needs to observe the individual for 20 minutes to ensure that they didn’t chew gum, throw up or do anything that would affect the test results. Also, the officer must be certified to perform the breath test, and the Alcotest machine must be calibrated properly. A machine that isn’t properly calibrated could lead to false results that are higher than the 0.08% BAC legal limit.
When arrested, make sure you talk to an attorney to ensure all of the procedures were done properly, and none of your rights were violated. If the officer failed to perform these procedures properly or didn’t follow the rules, your charges may be dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Baxter today!