Are DWI Checkpoints Legal in New York?

No one is happy about approaching a DWI checkpoint. However, for drivers who have had a few drinks, or may have smoked marijuana earlier in the day, this can be a horrifying experience. Part of what makes DWI checkpoints alarming is the unknown surrounding what officers can ask you, what you are allowed to say, and whether they are going to ask you to take a blood or breath test. But are New York DWI checkpoints really legal?

Given the constitutional protections everyone enjoys to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the legality of DWI checkpoints often comes up. However, DWI checkpoints are legal, or, better said, they may be legal if they are properly carried out. A recent New York DWI case involving a defendant who was arrested at a checkpoint gave the court the opportunity to elaborate on DWI checkpoint law in New York.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant approached a DWI checkpoint in Westchester County. As the defendant neared the checkpoint, he almost hit one of the officers on duty. The officer noticed that the defendant’s car smelled like alcohol and, when asked, the defendant explained he was coming from a party where he was drinking. The defendant agreed to take field sobriety tests, after which he was arrested for DWI and subsequently convicted.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the legality of the DWI checkpoint. However, the court disagreed, finding that the police department followed the necessary procedures when setting up and executing the checkpoint.

For example, the court noted that officers were instructed to stop every single car that passed through the checkpoint, eliminating the officer’s discretion in choosing which vehicles to stop. This addresses the potential concern that individual officers could use a DWI checkpoint to engage in profiling motorists. The court also pointed out that motorists were given fair warning as they approached the checkpoint, and that the officers properly lit the area and addressed all safety concerns. While there was no written guideline detailing the officer’s roles and duties, the court explained that there is no requirement the police department create written guidelines.

The court explained that DWI checkpoints are allowed to ensure traffic safety, and that there was “no reason to doubt” that was the goal of this particular checkpoint. As the case illustrates, proving that a DWI checkpoint was unconstitutional can be challenging. However, a dedicated New York DWI defense lawyer will know where to look to find potential problems with a checkpoint.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York DWI Offense?

If you were recently arrested at a New York DWI checkpoint, give the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel a call for immediate assistance. At our criminal defense law firm, we represent clients facing all types of DWI charges, as well as those dealing with the administrating consequences of a DWI arrest. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the allegations you are confronting, reach out to us a (914) 428-7386 to schedule a free consultation today.

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