In general, police officers in New Jersey can only stop a vehicle if they have a reasonable suspicion that an offense has been committed. They must also be able to specifically describe the grounds for their suspicion. Despite this constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, police may randomly stop drivers at sobriety checkpoints (also called roadblocks) even if they have no reason to believe that anyone in the vehicle committed an offense. Because random checkpoint stops are such an intrusive law enforcement technique, the police must be able to show a rational basis for establishing the roadblock. There are strict requirements for both setting up and executing roadblocks.
What To Expect At A Sobriety Checkpoint
As you approach a road block, you should see signs and lighting designating the checkpoint area. You will be required to slow down and wait for your turn to be processed through the checkpoint. Police officers will detain drivers in a pre-selected pattern (for example, every driver or every fifth driver). Drivers cannot be stopped on their appearance alone.
If you are stopped, you will be detained for a brief period of time. Police may ask basic questions, request documentation and look for signs that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you exhibit these signs, you will be asked to move your car to a separate area where you will be asked to undergo a field sobriety test.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that if police do not follow the proper procedures for setting up and executing a roadblock, any evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court—including breathalyzer or blood test results. Courts will consider various factors in determining whether a roadblock was proper, including:
- Whether notice of the time, date and location of the roadblock was published in advance
- Whether advance warning was given to individual approaching motorists (use of lights, signs, etc.)
- Whether statistical data demonstrates that the roadblock was set up in a particularly problematic location for drinking and driving
- Whether public safety and awareness are fostered by the checkpoint
- The time of day when the roadblock is conducted
- Average length each motorist is detained
- Whether less intrusive measures could have been used to combat drunk driving in the area
Police officers and state troopers do not have the authority to select a DUI checkpoint location or time. They must first receive a directive from their commanding officer.
What Happens if I Attempt to Evade a Roadblock?
If you are intoxicated and attempt to evade a properly established road block, this may give police sufficient reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle.
New Jersey DUI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Represents Drivers Who Have Been Charged With DWI at Police Roadblocks
State and federal laws carefully protect the rights of citizens to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. If you were stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and arrested for driving under the influence, New Jersey DWI lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich will obtain all documents relating to the establishment of the road block, and analyze it to determine whether it was legal. I will also look at the circumstances surrounding your stop to determine whether police followed proper procedures and detained you for a reasonable amount of time. Unreasonable detentions raise different constitutional issues and may provide you with additional defenses.
We proudly serve clients in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County. To discuss your case, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today.