How to fight NJ DUI Charges
“One of the ways to fight a DWI arrest in New Jersey is to challenge the DWI checkpoint. Many times police departments conduct DWI checkpoints in an attempt to make arrests and they must comply with certain rules and guidelines for those checkpoints to be valid. If not, these are essentially illegal traffic stops and the charges will be completely dismissed in court.”
Basics of New Jersey Sobriety Checkpoints for DWI & DUI
A DWI checkpoint is a predetermined location that is setup for law enforcement to stop vehicles and check if a driver is impaired by alcohol or under the influence of drugs. Usually officers may use a pattern, such as stopping every 7th vehicle, etc., to ask questions and see if the driver exhibits signs of impairment. The State’s intent for setting up these checkpoints is for safety, to prevent drunk driving and driving while impaired by drugs and to deter impairment through the awareness of the established checkpoint.
Notable case law, i.e. Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), is a Supreme Court case determining the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints. The State’s sobriety checkpoints were held as constitutional based on the State’s interest in curtailing drunk driving, the efficacy of the stops and, if setup properly, the checkpoint’s failure to infringe on a person’s rights. The Court reasoned that the plan for a sobriety checkpoint was reasonable and did not result in constitutional violations constituting illegal search and seizure.
What Makes a DUI Checkpoint Valid
New Jersey has implemented the use of DWI/DUI checkpoints. However, in order for a checkpoint to be legal, there are specific requirements that must be followed. Particularly, uniformed officers must operate the checkpoint, operational procedures should be in place (i.e. an algorithmic determination of which vehicles to stop through the checkpoint), the length of time for the stop, specific questions asked to determine if someone is under the influence, etc., a predetermined location must be utilized / approved, visibility, and more. The purpose is to have a plan so that the results will be unbiased and random.
In order for a DWI checkpoint to be considered valid it must fit the following criteria:
- Be published to the public beforehand
- Show prior history of DWI offenses in that area
- Be supervised properly by local law enforcement
- Must have been previously approved
If the DWI checkpoint does NOT fit the above criteria then it will be considered invalid which can help us fight your case.
Accordingly, to detain someone following a DWI/DUI checkpoint, the procedures must be followed. There cannot be investigative types of roadblocks/vehicle checkpoints at “random time[s] and location[s]” with “no specific duration, inadequately manned, and not designed for any particular preventative purpose, other than to pull drivers over to see what might turn up in the way of alcohol or drug-related criminal activity, and perhaps some regulatory violations.” State v. Kirk, 202 N.J. Super. 58, 493 A. 2d 1271 (1985).
The Court also referred to a series of supervisory instructions that were previously in place to ensure constitutional violations would not take place. For example, “[t]hese instructions insured command supervisory siting and control of check points, careful procedures for moving check points, warning to motorists to allay fears of the traveler, safety of motorists, sufficient staffing to prevent undue inconvenience to motorists, and selection of sites and times designed to benefit the overall effort to cope with drunken driving.” Id. at 57. Thus, given particular protocols in place were not followed, it resulted in the Court reversing the Superior Court’s denial of the suppression of DWI evidence.
You can Still be Charged at a Checkpoint for Driving under the Influence of Another Substance
If you were not drinking, but under the influence of another substance, you may still be charged with a DUI offense. Either way, after you have been stopped at a checkpoint and probable cause has been established, the police can search the vehicle and order you to complete field sobriety testing. The same rules apply if you are suspect for driving while intoxicated, however, you may also be asked to also complete chemical testing to make a proper determination if you were under the influence of drugs. However, if you believe probable cause was not established, it is important to consult with an attorney.
We can Fight Your DWI based on an Unlawful DWI Checkpoint
If you find that you may have become the target of an unlawful DWI/DUI checkpoint, call The Tormey Law Firm today to discuss your case because affirmative defenses may be available for you. Particularly, if you found that your case resulted in a DWI arrest from a checkpoint, but there were plainclothes officers, unmarked vehicles, in a poorly lit area, your rights may have been violated which can lead to the suppression of the DWI evidence used by the State against you. Suppression of evidence means that there is reason for all or part of the evidence used against you to not be used in your trial because it was illegally obtained.
Probable cause, specific protocols for field sobriety testing, notice of the checkpoint, and so much more are reasons that an attorney can review your case to ensure your DWI arrest is lawful and if it wasn’t, leverage this to the best advantage to beat your DUI charges.
A DWI/DUI arrest opens the door to driver’s license suspension, fines, court costs and assessments, insurance rate increases/surcharges, an ignition interlock device installation, and possibly a jail term. Don’t risk it.
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