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DUI checkpoints (or “sobriety checkpoints”) are among New Jersey’s most-effective tools for catching drunk drivers. Establishing a DUI checkpoint allows the police to conduct a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion (as is required under all other circumstances), and DUI checkpoints lead to numerous arrests each year. But, in many cases, these arrests violate individuals’ legal rights, and many people can successfully fight their charges with the help of an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer.
As explained by the State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety Office of the Attorney General, the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign involving criminal justice partners in all 50 states was started in 1999 in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths caused by drunk or impaired drivers. Nevertheless, each year hundreds of people still die in New Jersey due to accidents caused by drunk drivers.
But, while drunk driving is dangerous, this does not mean that every person who is charged with DUI at a checkpoint deserves to be convicted and sentenced. Do you have a defense to your DUI charge? Contact us to find out today.FD
In New Jersey, one way that local law enforcement agencies are continuing to try to minimize the number of drunk drivers on the public roads is through the use of sobriety checkpoints. A DUI checkpoint, which does not violate the ban against unreasonable search and seizure as determined by the United States Supreme Court in 1990 in the case of Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, allows police officers to stop vehicles in order to determine if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is believed that such checkpoints act as a, “general deterrent to persons who have knowledge of the operation. Sobriety checkpoints increase the perception of the risk of arrest, if they are adequately publicized and highly visible to the public.”
If you are arrested for drunk driving at a DUI checkpoint, it is important to contact a New Jersey DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. You will want to speak with a defense lawyer while the events that occurred at the checkpoint remain fresh in your memory, and you need to make sure you do everything you possibly can to minimize your chances of conviction.
New Jersey law imposes strict requirements for DUI checkpoints. When you contact Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., one of our defense lawyers will review the facts of your case to determine if law enforcement followed all of the requirements for conducting traffic stops at checkpoints in New Jersey. This includes the requirements established by the Superior Court of New Jersey in the case of State v. Kirk, 202 N.J.Super. 28 (1985), which are:
“[C]ommand supervisory siting and control of check points, careful procedures for moving check points, warning to motorists to allay fears of the traveler, safety of motorists, sufficient staffing to prevent undue inconvenience to motorists, and selection of sites and times designed to benefit the overall effort to cope with drunken driving.”
After reviewing the facts of your case, your attorney will assess whether issues during your DUI checkpoint stop make any of the evidence collected inadmissible in court under New Jersey law. If so, your attorney can file a motion to have this evidence suppressed from your trial. If the prosecutor’s office does not have other evidence that it can use to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this could result in the dismissal of your case.
In addition to compliance with New Jersey’s legal requirements for DUI checkpoints, there are a number of other issues that can provide defenses – and potentially create problems – for individuals who have been charged with DUI. These include:
If not conducted in compliance with the guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court and the requirements imposed under New Jersey law, a DUI arrest at a drunk driving checkpoint can amount to an unconstitutional search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, and it provides fundamental protections to New Jersey residents during interactions with the police.
Importantly, if the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an unlawful search or seizure, this will not have any immediate or automatic impact on your DUI case. In order to challenge the police’s unconstitutional conduct and have unlawfully obtained evidence suppressed from your trial, you will need to hire an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney to raise the issue in court on your behalf.
Many drivers who are stopped at DUI checkpoints are sober. If you were stopped and charged with DUI even though you were not driving under the influence, this does not necessarily mean that you will be found not guilty at trial, but it does mean that you have defenses available. Additionally, even if you were impaired or intoxicated, if the arresting officer administered the field sobriety tests (FSTs) or breathalyzer improperly, this could provide a defense in your DUI case as well.
Similar to DUI checkpoints, there are established protocols for administering FSTs and breath tests to individuals who are suspected of drunk driving. There are also clear guidelines for interpreting drivers’ FST performance and breathalyzer results. Police mistakes could provide a defense in your DUI case; and, once again, you will need to speak with an attorney to find out what defenses you can assert in court.
Under New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, the police can require you to take a roadside breathalyzer test if they have reason to believe that you are intoxicated. Refusing a breath test is a violation of New Jersey’s implied consent law, and a DUI refusal can lead to a conviction even if you were not drunk behind the wheel. For a first-time offense, a DUI refusal can result in up to a 12-month driver’s license suspension, mandatory education at an Intoxicated Driving Resource Center (IDRC), and thousands of dollars in financial penalties.
Yes, once you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the police can order you out of your car if they have reason to believe that you may have been driving under the influence.
As a general rule, yes. Under New Jersey’s implied consent law, all drivers are required to submit to breath tests during DUI traffic stops. However, if the officers conducting the checkpoint did not have “reasonable grounds” to believe that you were intoxicated, or if there were issues with the test, then your breath test results may be inadmissible in court.
No. Unlike the breath test, New Jersey’s implied consent law does not apply to the field sobriety tests (FSTs). However, if you submit to the FSTs, prosecutors can use your performance against you—unless you can raise a defense. From failure to follow the established protocols to misinterpreting the reason for your “failure” of an FST, there are several potential defenses available.
The police can search your vehicle during a DUI checkpoint stop if they have “probable cause” to do so. If the police searched your car and found evidence against you (i.e., an open container), you will want to discuss this with your New Jersey DUI defense lawyer to determine if it may be possible to keep this evidence out of your case.
If the police violated your rights during a DUI checkpoint stop by conducting an unlawful search, engaging in racial profiling, or otherwise conducting the checkpoint in non-compliance with New Jersey law or the U.S. Constitution, this may provide a defense to your DUI charge. You will want to consult with a defense lawyer as soon as possible to find out what defenses you have available.
If you are facing a DUI charge following an arrest at a checkpoint in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to speak with a DUI defense lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. as soon as possible. Call us at 877-435-6371 or contact us online to start building your defense strategy today.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.