A sobriety checkpoint is an area that is set up by the police to randomly check motorists to see if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sobriety checkpoints are legal in New Jersey, and it is always a possibility that a driver may encounter one.
Drivers must have adequate notice when they are approaching a sobriety checkpoint. Drivers will see warning signs telling them they are approaching a sobriety checkpoint. If a driver makes an illegal U-turn right before the checkpoint, they could be pulled over for that violation and then further questioned if the police have probable cause. Police must use a random and neutral system for stopping vehicles at the sobriety checkpoint if there is no other reasonable cause to pull over the driver.
What are the Procedures at a Sobriety Checkpoint?
When a driver is stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, police powers are different than if the driver was stopped on suspicion of being under the influence. At a checkpoint, police do not need a reasonable cause to believe that a driver is under the influence to stop and speak with them. There are very specific standards to how the checkpoint is set up. If the checkpoint does not meet those standards, any arrests made at the checkpoint can be thrown out if it is proven that those standards were not met.
At a checkpoint, an officer may ask for a license, registration, and proof of insurance. During that interaction, if the officer believes that the driver is under the influence, they may request a field sobriety test. The driver may refuse the test. If the police still have reasonable cause to believe that the driver is impaired, they may still proceed with an arrest and implement a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. If a driver is incorrectly arrested, there are defenses available to them.
On the other hand, under a DUI traffic stop, there is implied consent. The driver may still refuse the test, but officers can still make arrests based on other observations, such as the smell of a substance while conducting the traffic stop.
Police Searches at Sobriety Checkpoints
Police cannot search the car at a sobriety checkpoint unless they have reasonable cause to believe there is contraband in the car. This can include an open container of alcohol. If the police do not state the reasonable cause to search the vehicle, a driver may refuse. Even if the driver consents to a search, if the proper procedures were not followed, the driver may raise defenses involving the validity of the search in court. For help with the best defense, it is important that the accused speaks to a lawyer as soon as possible.
South Jersey DUI Lawyers at Agre & St. John Fight on Behalf of Those Charged at Sobriety Checkpoints
If you were charged with a DUI offense at a sobriety checkpoint, the South Jersey DUI lawyers at Agre & St. John can help. We can obtain information about the sobriety checkpoint or the traffic stop that could be relevant to your case. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, and Salem County. Call us at 856-428-7797 or contact us online for an initial consultation.