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More States Outlawing DWI Checkpoints

July 8, 2013

In Michigan v. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as constitutional sobriety checkpoints.  In that case, the Court noted that, although stopping drivers at DUI checkpoints without probable cause was technically a violation of the Fourth Amendment, it is only a small intrusion, and one that is outweighed by the interest in ensuring safety on the roadways.  In Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Michigan Supreme court to reconsider its decision reversing the DUI conviction on the ground that a roadblock violated the Fourth Amendment.  Upon remand, however, the Michigan Supreme Court, however, upheld its prior decision on the grounds that if DUI roadblocks do not violate the U.S. Constitution, they violated the Michigan constitution.  Nine other states have joined Michigan in banning sobriety checkpoints based off of their own constitutions.

New Jersey, however, continues to follow the majority rule, upholding DWI/DUI roadblocks/checkpoints as constitutional under the state constitution.  Motorists in New Jersey complain about how checkpoints resulted in their being pulled over for no reason. Probable cause, however, is not an initial requirement of a lawful sobriety roadblock.  A 2002 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Carty, summarized the standard applied to roadblocks in New Jersey.  Pursuant to that decision, so long as a roadblock is targeted to a specified area and at a specified time and based on information justifying the location selection for public safety reasons, the roadblock will most likely be held lawful. Other factors the courts will consider include adequate warnings and publicity designed to deter driving under the influence.

Thus, even though New Jersey permits DWI checkpoints, you should be aware that police officers must adhere to very strict requirement as set forth in New Jersey case law.  If you were involved in a DWI checkpoint, contact us today for a free consultation.

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