The Jersey Shore comes to life in the summertime. Anticipating another season of drinking and partying, the New Jersey State Police recently announced plans to crack down on drunk driving by increasing the number of local DWI checkpoints. Here, our Atlantic City DWI lawyers explain why checkpoints are legal, what your rights are if you are stopped at a DUI roadblock in New Jersey, and what to do if you or your son or daughter gets arrested for driving while intoxicated in Atlantic County this summer.
Are Intoxicated Driving Checkpoints Legal in New Jersey?
While each state follows different laws regarding sobriety checkpoints, DUI roadblocks are legal throughout most of the U.S. Only 12 states do not conduct checkpoints. New Jersey is not among them. On the contrary, New Jersey courts have upheld DWI roadblocks under both the federal and state Constitution.
Though highly controversial, checkpoints are not considered to be an example of illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, because the benefit to public safety outweighs the potential harm to the individual being stopped. That being said, checkpoints must comply with strict rules, which are explained in the next section.
Generally speaking, checkpoints are conducted a few times per month in New Jersey. However, their frequency is about to increase.
“We want people to know that we are out there along with local law enforcement,” said NJSP Capt. Stephen Jones, “and we hope that there is a deterrent factor in that message to guide people to take smarter options [to get home] when they’ve been drinking.”
While the Jersey Shore will be a focal point for the campaign, state police plan to ramp up checkpoints across the state, beginning with Toms River and Maurice River Township in early June 2016. According to Capt. Jones, the NJSP will use crash data to strategize DUI checkpoint locations.
“Where we have cases that DWI is a problem contributing to fatalities and injuries in crashes,” said Capt. Jones, “that’s where we’re going to focus our efforts.”
While the NJSP doesn’t plan to make the exact locations of the roadblocks public, approximate locations will be shared via press releases and social media.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,800 people were killed in New Jersey DUI accidents from 2003 to 2012.
What Are Your Rights if You Are Stopped at a DUI Roadblock by the NJSP?
DWI checkpoints may be legal in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean they are completely exempt from regulation. On the contrary, police officers must obey certain laws and criteria when conducting checkpoints. For example, officers must:
- Clearly identify the checkpoint as a DUI roadblock.
- Clearly identify themselves as police officers.
- Follow a formula when making stops. Racial profiling and random stops are prohibited.
- Obtain appropriate authorization from their superiors before setting up a checkpoint.
- Refrain from stopping drivers for unreasonable amounts of time.
If you are ever stopped at a DWI checkpoint in Atlantic City (or anywhere in New Jersey), know that you have the following rights:
- You are at a DUI checkpoint, not a checkpoint for any other offense. You are not obligated to answer questions about other matters.
- You do not have to consent to a search.
- You do not have to consent to field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line.
- You do not have to volunteer any unasked-for information. In fact, it’s best to avoid small talk and unnecessary comments, which could cause you to accidentally incriminate yourself.
Arrested for Drunk Driving? Contact Our Atlantic City DWI Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
A conviction of driving while intoxicated in New Jersey can result in serious penalties. Depending on factors like whether the driver caused any injuries, whether the driver was under the legal drinking age of 21, whether the driver has a history of prior DWI offenses, and the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the alleged offense, the driver could lose their license, be heavily fined, and even incarcerated. Even for a first offense DWI in New Jersey, the consequences can be severe.
The Cape May DUI attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have over 45 years of combined experience representing teenagers and adults charged with drunk driving in Atlantic County and Cape May County. We will scrutinize every last detail of your arrest to determine whether your rights were violated, combing the evidence for possible defenses such as inaccurate breathalyzer readings, violations of the 20-minute waiting rule, and lack of probable cause to arrest. Even when breathalyzer machines are accurate, BAC readings can be affected by medical conditions like diabetes and hypoglycemia.