DWI Checkpoints in New Jersey
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The law firm of Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC handles criminal defense matters. Gary Grabas and Casey Woodruff are both former Prosecutors. Jon Bramnick is a Certified Trial Lawyer. Our criminal defense attorneys have many years experience handling DWI cases in Westfield and throughout New Jersey.
In Westfield, DWI Checkpoints are not uncommon. Ordinarily, these checkpoints are conducted on a weekend night in one or more of the following locations: North Avenue, South Avenue, Central Avenue, Springfield Avenue and East Broad Street. Many times local news publications will publish articles regarding a future DWI Checkpoint in order to provide notice to the public.
When a driver approaches a Westfield DWI Checkpoint, officers that specialize in detecting drunk drivers will ask some general questions, including whether you have had anything to drink that night. Upon suspicion, that driver may be asked to participate in a field sobriety test. If the officer determines that the test has not been passed, the driver will then be required to take a Breathalyzer Test at the Westfield Police Station. In New Jersey, a driver may not refuse a Breathalyzer Test without penalty.
In New Jersey, police may lawfully use of DWI Checkpoints for purposes of reducing drunk driving. Ordinarily, probable cause must exist in order for police to conduct a search and seizure. However, an exception exists regarding motor vehicle stops. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the United States Supreme Court ruled that “reasonable suspicion” would suffice for police to stop a motor vehicle. An exception to this exception also exists concerning DWI Checkpoints. Because a checkpoint theoretically enables police to stop drivers for no reason, their existence has raised privacy concerns. Thus, New Jersey courts have held that in order for a DWI Checkpoint to be lawful, it must be “carefully targeted to a designated area at a specified time and place based on data justifying the site selection for reasons of public safety and reasonably efficacious or productive law enforcement goals[.]” State v. Kirk, 202 N.J.Super. 40, 41 (1985). Other factors which add to a checkpoint’s legitimacy include: “(1) adequate warnings to avoid frightening the traveling public, (2) advance general publicity designed to deter drunken drivers from getting in cars in the first place, and (3) officially specified neutral and courteous procedures for the intercepting officers to follow when stopping drivers.” Id. Therefore, if these factors are satisfied, the legality of the DWI Checkpoint will be upheld in court.
If you encounter a DWI Checkpoint, do not attempt to flee. Attempts to avoid the checkpoint will only give police the probable cause they need to arrest you. However, it is important to remember that statements made to police at the checkpoint can also be used against you. Therefore, unless you are certain you have no alcohol in your system; it is wise to decline answering until you have consulted with a lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI as a result of a DWI Checkpoint, we may be able to assist you. Our lawyers understand how to protect your rights. Contact us to schedule your free consultation: (908) 322-7000.
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