When you are driving down the road and realize that you are approaching a DWI checkpoint, it is not unusual to feel a bit nervous—even if you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The best way to manage this potential stress is to understand your rights and law enforcement’s obligations before you find yourself at a DWI checkpoint in New Jersey. Below is a thorough explanation of New Jersey law on DWI checkpoints and answers to some of the leading questions about what to do at DUI checkpoints in New Jersey.
If you have been charged with DWI at a sobriety checkpoint in the Camden County NJ area, call experienced DWI defense lawyer William C. Fay at 609-832-3202 for immediate assistance. He has been defending clients against DWI charges throughout New Jersey for years and can help you avoid the serious consequences you face.
Are DWI checkpoints constitutional?
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. That means that the police cannot conduct a search of an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy without your consent or a warrant, with a few exceptions. Due to this protection, the constitutionality of DWI checkpoints has been debated and challenged in courts. However, in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Michigan v. Sitz, the court ruled that DWI checkpoints are in fact constitutional and found that they are only a brief and slight intrusion on motorists.
What procedures must police follow when operating a DWI checkpoint in NJ?
In order to conduct a DWI checkpoint in New Jersey, there are certain rules and procedures the police must follow. First, the police must give advance public notice of a scheduled DWI checkpoint. They must use appropriate signs and lighting to alert drivers to the checkpoint. After using a neutral, mathematical formula to determine which vehicles to stop, the police can only stop drivers for a brief period of time to ask them for basic information, look at their driver’s license, registration, and insurance, and check for signs of impairment.
If I see an NJ DWI checkpoint ahead, do I have to keep driving towards it?
If you see a notice sign for a DWI checkpoint on the road you are driving on in New Jersey, you are not obligated to continue driving towards the checkpoint. As long as you can make a U-turn legally or take a different route without violating traffic laws, you may do so. The police cannot pull you over simply for rerouting your vehicle to avoid a DWI checkpoint. They may only stop you if they suspect you have violated a traffic law or committed some other offense.
Do I have to submit to a breathalyzer test at a New Jersey DUI Checkpoint?
If the police otherwise have probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can request that you submit to a breathalyzer test. In New Jersey, you provide “implied consent” to a breath test by operating a motor vehicle on any roadway. If you refuse a DWI breath test, you will be charged with a DUI Refusal offense and face the same penalties that you would with a typical drunk driving offense. As a general rule of thumb, you should agree to take the Alcotest because this provides an experienced DWI defense lawyer with the opportunity to challenge the breath test results. If you refuse, there is less evidence to use in your DWI defense strategy.
Do I have to let the police search my vehicle at a Sobriety Checkpoint in NJ?
If you are stopped by police at a DWI checkpoint, or at any other time, you are never required to give consent for the police to conduct a search of your vehicle. As stated above, in order to conduct a search of an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, the police must either have your consent, a warrant, or an exception to the warrant requirement must apply.
One of those exceptions applicable to a search at a DWI checkpoint is called the “automobile exception” and it applies when the police have probable cause to believe a search of your vehicle would result in evidence of a crime or contraband. They may also search the area of your vehicle that is approximately within your arms’ length, if they are placing you under arrest. Another exception to the warrant requirement for a search is an inventory search of your vehicle, which the police may conduct after you are arrested and your vehicle is impounded.
If no exceptions to the warrant exception apply, the police must obtain your consent to search your vehicle without a warrant. You are not under any legal obligation to give them consent and your refusal to give consent for a search of your vehicle cannot result in criminal charges.
Gloucester Township DWI Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a DWI at a DUI checkpoint, or you believe the police violated your rights in connection to a DWI checkpoint in New Jersey, contact DWI defense attorney William C. Fay to discuss your case. Call 609-832-3202 or submit a contact form online and we will get back to you right away.