Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals – the highest court in the state – both determined many years ago that the use of checkpoints or roadblocks by the police to randomly screen drivers is not necessarily a violation of a driver’s rights.
Many Buffalo area police agencies continue to use DWI checkpoints, especially around holidays or at other times when drunk drivers are most likely to be on the road.
While the courts have ruled that checkpoints are not illegal under all circumstances, they also have ruled that checkpoints must follow certain rules to legally stop a driver.
First, the DWI checkpoint must be operated under explicit regulations which limit the discretion of the officers regarding where the roadblock is located.
This basically means there must be rules about where the roadblock will be set up.
While roving checkpoints are permitted, there still must be some criteria setting forth how the sites are chosen and operated. An officer cannot just randomly decide to set up a roadblock and stop cars.
Second, the vehicles must be stopped according to wholly uniform and neutral criteria, such as stopping every car or every other car.
The police cannot randomly pull drivers out of line.
Third, once a car is pulled over, the officer’s initial inquiry must be brief and limited to questions regarding topics such as the driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance and proof of inspection.
Only if this initial observation leads to evidence that the driver may be intoxicated can the officer proceed further with any investigation.
When a driver has been stopped at a checkpoint and charged with DWI, an experienced drunk driving lawyer will look into how the roadblock was set up to determine if it was legal.
If you need help, call us at (585) 484-7432.