In New Jersey, police officers take many different courses of action to prevent drunk driving car accidents. One of the ways that officers attempt to catch drunk drivers is by setting up sobriety checkpoints at random locations and times. Many people wonder whether they legally have to comply with officers during these random stops. To find out more about your rights during a DUI checkpoint, read this blog or reach out to a Mercer County DUI Lawyer today for quality legal counseling.
IS IT LEGAL FOR A POLICE OFFICER TO PERFORM A DUI CHECKPOINT?
Yes, it is legal in New Jersey and most other states for police officers to perform random DUI checkpoints. Normally, the officer stops each driver, asks if they’ve been drinking, and lets them on their way if they say no or if the officer doesn’t suspect anything. If the officer suspects an intoxicated driver, they might ask the driver to take a breathalyzer or participate in field sobriety tests. While the 4th Amendment prevents police from searching vehicles without reasonable cause, the Supreme Court has ruled DUI checkpoints legal because the need to prevent drunk driving outweighs the inconvenience to drivers. It is completely legal for police officers to perform sobriety checkpoints, but drivers have the right to legally avoid a police search if they choose.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS DURING A SOBRIETY CHECKPOINT?
Some people wonder if they can avoid the DUI checkpoint by turning around. You’re allowed to do a legal U-turn or another turn to avoid the checkpoint as long as you don’t break any traffic laws while doing so. However, turning around too close to the checkpoint might raise the suspicion of the officer manning the checkpoint. So even if you change directions to avoid speaking to the officer, they might stop you anyway if they believe you to be suspicious.
You also have the right to avoid answering questions when the officer stops you. The best way to legally avoid a search during a DUI checkpoint is by keeping your windows rolled up and taping a piece of paper to the inside of your window which explains that you’re exercising your right to remain silent. You’ll still need to allow the officer to check your license and registration, so you can put those items in a plastic bag hanging from your window. If an officer tries to tell you this is illegal or arrests you for remaining silent, contact a lawyer right away.
Have you been unreasonably stopped by a police officer or arrested for a DUI during a sobriety checkpoint? You’ll likely want to speak with a trusted criminal defense lawyer that has your best interests in mind. No need to worry because the Law Office of Douglas Herring is here to fight for you! Contact us today for an initial consultation with an experienced and effective DUI attorney.