DWI/DUI Checkpoints

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in violation of N.J.S.A § 39:4-50 after being stopped at a roadblock or traffic checkpoint you may have defenses available that could potentially invalidate the stop and suppress the DUI. One of our most cherished constitutional rights is the 4th amendment protection against warrantless searches and seizures. The police are permitted to set up DUI/DWI checkpoints and roadblocks, but there are set rules and strict procedural guidelines that law enforcement must follow in order to render a DUI/DWI checkpoint valid.

Under New Jersey law the police must have a justifiable suspicion in order to detain a motor vehicle and its occupants. The New Jersey Supreme Court has made it clear that any blanket stop of all vehicles at a DWI checkpoint is not permitted. Furthermore, arbitrary and totally random stops are also barred. The New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Kirk established thirteen factors that go into the reasonableness of a checkpoint stop. These thirteen time, place, and manner restrictions are strictly enforced by the New Jersey courts and if they are not followed, any evidence obtained as a result of the stop, such as any breathalyzer, urine, or blood tests performed, may be suppressed.

Some of the factors stated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Kirk were as follows:

  • Degree of discretion left to officers in the field
  • Location of roadblock
  • Time and duration of the roadblock
  • Advance notice of roadblock given to the public
  • Advance notice to the individual approaching motorist

The most important aspects of the DUI checkpoint is that proper notice be provided to motorists and that the officers at the stop are not given “unbridled discretion” of when to make the stop. One case that illustrates the importance of proper notice given to motorists is State v Badessa. In Badessa the Defendant was approaching a DWI checkpoint, made a legal left turn, and was stopped on suspicion of evading the checkpoint. The officer, noting that defendant's eyes were glassy, there was an odor of alcohol on his breath, and his speech was slow and slurred, requested that he submit to a breathalyzer test and warned him of the penalties for refusal. Defendant refused to submit to a test.

The New Jersey Appellate court in Badessa held that when a DWI checkpoint zone encompassed intersecting roads, proper on-the-scene warnings had to include signs indicating no turns. Since the DWI checkpoint signage was deficient in lacking signs warning motorists that no turns were permitted at unbarricaded intersections within the checkpoint zone, the officer lacked grounds to stop the defendant for making such a turn.

The Badessa case shows that effective legal representation is essential in ensuring that you are afforded every opportunity available to you under the law after a DUI/DWI. At Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo our attorneys routinely represent individuals in DUI/DWI checkpoint cases. If you have been issued a DUI/DWI as a result of a checkpoint stop, the outcome of your case will depend on whether you have sound effective legal representation. At Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo we have had great success in helping individuals fighting a loss of license due to a DUI/DWI. We are available 24/7 at 908-709-0500. Please call us today to get an experienced attorney on your side.