What Is an Illegal DWI Checkpoint?

A DWI charge in New York is serious, and the penalties for a conviction are harsh. You may wonder, though, how a DWI checkpoint is legal if a police officer must have reasonable cause to stop a motorist. The reason they are legal is because the U.S. Supreme Court allows law enforcement agencies to operate these DWI checkpoints as an exception to the law. This has been the law since 1990, when the court ruled that the state’s obligation to public safety supersedes a driver’s constitutional right to privacy. That means you could be briefly detained by police if you are caught at a checkpoint and then questioned, or even given a breathalyzer test.

DWI checkpoints are still controversial, even though they are legally permissible. If you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint in New York, you should take immediate steps to hire an experienced lawyer familiar with the state’s laws on the legality of checkpoints. DWI convictions have been thrown out in the past because state courts sometimes determine that a motorist’s constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure are violated.

New York’s DWI checkpoints must meet the following criteria to be legal:

  • The DWI checkpoint must serve a clear purpose, which must be clearly stated and published in advance.
  • The officer may not violate the motorist’s privacy beyond a reasonable degree.
  • The checkpoint must have adequate lighting, and warning signs must be posted.
  • Police officers may not profile any drivers. They must only stop them by using a predetermined random method.
  • A police officer must be present at the scene to supervise the operation.

I Was Stopped at a DWI Checkpoint in New York, What Should I Do?

If you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint, remember to remain calm, but be careful to protect your rights. Never admit or confess to anything, even if you’re asked point-blank if you have been drinking. If the officer has no reasonable suspicion to detain a driver, such as noticing you had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the odor of alcohol on your breath, you may be off the hook because the DWI checkpoint was not conducted legally.

Obtain Skilled Legal Representation Immediately

Consequences for a DWI conviction in New York can change your life. That’s why it’s important to seek legal representation as soon as possible to better understand your options to build a strong defense against the charges you’re facing. A skilled attorney can determine whether your rights were violated when you were stopped at the sobriety checkpoint, and if the checkpoint itself was legal.

Contact us today at (212) 235-1525 to speak to a member of our legal team at Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C. if you were arrested at a DWI checkpoint.

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