A DWI (driving while intoxicated) checkpoint or sobriety checkpoint is a roadblock law enforcement officers set up on local roads to stop vehicles and look for signs of intoxication in drivers. The number of DWI checkpoints is likely to increase during the holidays, and you may find yourself in one.
Are DWI checkpoints legal?
Yes. In New York, police departments can designate sobriety checkpoints in specific locations, especially near popular drinking establishments. However, they must conform to legal and constitutional limitations. A DWI checkpoint is only legal if the attending law enforcement officers abide by the law. Below are the legal limits and requirements of a law enforcement officer at a checkpoint:
- Officers must be fair and impartial when stopping vehicles if they do not plan to stop every car passing through. They must use a random pattern or predetermined formula to prevent discrimination and bias.
- Officers can only stop a vehicle and detain a driver for a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, it could be an illegal seizure.
- Officers must ensure drivers know the checkpoint’s existence by setting up signs leading to its location. A DWI checkpoint should also have adequate lighting and safety measures to prevent avoidable accidents.
- Officers cannot search your vehicle at a checkpoint without your consent or probable cause.
It may also be important to note that you do not need to answer any self-incriminating questions that an officer may ask you. But never lie to a law enforcement officer. You can refuse to answer and invoke your right to remain silent.
The limitations are there to protect your rights as a motorist
Law enforcement officers can get carried away when trying to catch DWI offenders, sometimes violating motorists’ rights in the process. You should know the law protects you and how it does so you can be in a better position to defend yourself if necessary.