4 requirements for a legal sobriety checkpoint

The weeks between Halloween and New Year’s Day are prime for enforcement of New Jersey’s driving while intoxicated laws. After all, many residents and visitors of the Garden State want to celebrate with some beer, wine or cocktails. If you drive with a blood alcohol concentration over New Jersey’s 0.08% legal limit, though, you may face serious consequences.

Police officers have a couple different ways to catch drunk drivers. Often, officers observe suspicious behavior before stopping a vehicle. They may also erect a sobriety checkpoint, whereby they check all motorists passing a certain point for intoxicated driving. Not all DWI checkpoints are legal. Here are four requirements for a lawful one:

  1. Safety 

Before setting up a sobriety checkpoint, officers must take steps to protect their safety and the safety of motorists. To satisfy this requirement, officers should use appropriate lighting, provide a safe place to stop, erect signage and take other reasonable steps.

  1. Publication 

Officers must also notify motorists in advance of an upcoming checkpoint. To do so, they typically must place a sign before the stop. They may also use local media to publish the locations of planned checkpoints.

  1. Neutrality

For a checkpoint to be valid, officers cannot target specific vehicles. Instead, they must stop every vehicle that approaches the checkpoint. Alternatively, they can choose a neutral pattern, such as stopping every fourth vehicle.

  1. Convenience 

Even though sobriety checkpoints are naturally inconvenient for motorists, officers may not make them unreasonably so. Rather, they must detain drivers for just enough time to determine if they are sober.

Drunk driving is dangerous. Therefore, officers have an incentive to stop and arrest intoxicated motorists. Nevertheless, sobriety checkpoints do not always pass legal muster. If you are facing DWI charges stemming from a checkpoint, you may want to investigate whether officers complied with their legal obligations in setting up the barrier.

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