George F. Hildebrandt
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Know your rights and what to expect at DWI checkpoints

If you tend to have a few drinks with some friends and drive a short while afterward in New York, it is important for you to know your rights at DWI checkpoints. If you do not learn them, you could find yourself with a DWI charge and the significant consequences that result.

DWI checkpoints are usually placed where there is a high suspicion of intoxicated driving. Officers can question motorists at sobriety checkpoints to determine if there is a legal basis for further detention and more formal testing. Your actions can lead to further scrutiny, and if arrested, a request that you submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood to determine your blood alcohol content. Take some time to learn what to expect at a DWI checkpoint so you can protect your rights.

DWI checkpoints must be clearly marked

Law enforcement often notifies the public of DWI checkpoints, and there are usually signs to notify drivers of them as well. Checkpoints often slow down the flow of traffic and may cause you to take longer in getting to your destination. Stay calm and continue to exercise good driving behaviors and judgment. You do not want to do anything that will draw more attention.

Traffic laws still apply

The primary function of sobriety checkpoints is for law enforcement to stop drunk motorists before they cause harm and break the law further. Officers must still enforce all other laws as well. You can still be cited or detained for any traffic laws or rules you break.

Some questions do not require responses

During a traffic or DWI enforcement stop, you must provide your name, license and registration. Be careful and polite if you decide to answer any other questions law enforcement asks you. They may seem harmless, but the officer is using them to gather information that he or she can use to determine if impairment is a factor. Your responses and actions may provide a basis to believe you are intoxicated and result in your getting charged with DWI  (a "common law" DWI charge) regardless of your BAC.

What happens if you refuse testing

Even though you live in an implied consent state, law enforcement cannot force you to take a chemical test of your breath or blood, at least absent the rare issuance of a court order. If the officer gives you the required warnings about the consequences of refusal, however, your driving privileges may be revoked after a hearing at the DMV. You may also have to pay a substantial civil penalty.

Drunk driving charges have significant consequences, and there is often substantial proof of intoxication or impairment offered by the police. To avoid issues at DWI traffic stops and checkpoints, know your rights and act accordingly.

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