DWI/DUI checkpoints or roadblocks have been legal in New York since 1984. They consist of mandatory traffic stops for random vehicles. The roadblocks aren’t connected with any reasonable articulable suspicions of criminal activity. Locations of DWI/DUI checkpoints must be randomly chosen, and they’re only allowed to be temporary, lasting for a few hours. They’re usually set up for use during late night and early morning hours during weekends and holidays.
What happens at a DWI/DUI checkpoint?
When a driver is directed into a DWI/DUI checkpoint, it operates as a short detention as opposed to an arrest. He or she will be asked for their driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance and briefly interviewed to look for signs of the driver being under the influence. Those signs might include:
Drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs might then be asked to perform certain field sobriety tests. The law doesn’t require a driver to take such tests. Field sobriety tests might also include a portable breath testing device. If a driver consents to field sobriety testing and fails, he or she is taken into custody and charged.
Don’t these roadblocks operate as illegal searches and seizures?
Indeed both the United States Constitution and New York Constitution prohibit unlawful searches and seizures. They’re intended to prevent arbitrary invasions of privacy by governmental officials.
A DWI/DUI roadblock isn’t a traffic stop
The general rule is that the driver of a motor vehicle is only subject to a traffic stop by police if there’s a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver had committed or is committing a crime or traffic violation. There’s a legal difference between a traffic stop and a detention at a DWI/DUI roadblock though, and that involves the degree of intrusion of the DUI roadblock.
The balancing act
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that probable cause isn’t required for a simple and brief detention at a DWI/DUI roadblock because the degree of intrusion at the roadblock is minimal and an exception to constitutional unreasonable search and seizure prohibitions. What distinguishes a roadblock from a traffic stop is that there are real limitations on discretion as to whether a roadblock will be set up and how it’s going to be used. The Supreme Court concluded that the dangers presented by drunk drivers by far outweigh the minimal degree of intrusion presented at DWI/DUI checkpoints.
DWI/DUI roadblocks are up to each state
States have been allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to establish DWI/DUI checkpoints, but they must be used within appropriate guidelines. The National Highway Safety Transportation Board has issued DWI/DUI roadblock guidelines, but each state can issue its own. The legality of these checkpoints has been rejected by 12 states. New York isn’t one of them.
The guidelines governing DWI/DUI roadblocks are strict. If you’re arrested at one of these checkpoints, it might be possible for one of our attorneys to get your charges dismissed if the guidelines weren’t followed. New York DWI/DUI law is very complicated. Our knowledgeable and experienced DWI/DUI attorneys have the specific training and experience that’s required to represent you anywhere in New York City. Our DWI/DUI clients come from every walk of life. It’s not necessarily against the law to consume an alcoholic beverage and operate a motor vehicle, but it’s easy for a police officer to make a DWI/DUI arrest. We’ll evaluate every available option for you, advise you on them, and provide you with the highest quality DWI/DUI defense that you can get.
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