DWI, Sobriety Checkpoints and Your Rights
DWI stops are allowed in several states as long as police officers follow certain legal guidelines. These stops should be carried out so they do not violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Twelve states do not have written laws that give guidelines on DWI stops or these states have legally outlawed sobriety checkpoints. Find out how your state handles DWI stops.
The police are required to follow federal and state law when they keep up sobriety checkpoints. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlaws unreasonable search and seizure, which can affect how sobriety checkpoints are handled. The evidence an officer gathers can be used against you to sustain a DWI arrest. The prosecution can also use the evidence to convict you of DWI. If the officer violated any part of the search and seizure, he violated your rights. Your attorney can file a motion to legally suppress this evidence or have your case dismissed.
A sobriety checkpoint is the first step in the DWI course of action before your arrest. The arresting officer looks at your behavior, conducts field sobriety tests and asks you several questions. As long as the sobriety checkpoint meets some requirements, they are not an unlawful search and seizure. The requirements include a police study showing why the checkpoint is needed, improvement notice of the checkpoint to the public, a court order allowing the checkpoint, a safe location for the roadblock and certification for the officers carrying out the check point. The checkpoint should not target specific populations.
Should a police officer stop you, believing you are driving drunk, he has to have enough facts on hand to believe you are really drunk. The officer gives you several tests that can either build his case or show you are not drunk. These include the horizontal gaze test, the one leg stand and the walk and turn test. If you show any inability to complete these tests, the officer can arrest you for DWI.
You should know that these field sobriety tests are very subjective. Some considerations that have nothing to do with your consumption of alcohol can affect how your tests are interpreted, including anxiety, a medical condition or a language obstacle.
You do not have to consent to testing, but if you refuse, your driver license can be automatically suspended. Your refusal to consent to testing can be used against you at your trial. A video camera mounted on the dashboard of the police car records the actions of the officer in addition as your actions. Your attorney can legally use this video as evidence if you believe your rights have been violated.
Thirty eight states allow sobriety checkpoints to be set up and carried out under federal Constitutional law, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. In New Mexico, law enforcement is required to follow certain guidelines.
Twelve states allow sobriety checkpoints by state statute, including Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana and Nebraska. Those states permitting sobriety checkpoints by state statute include Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Utah. In New Hampshire, the checkpoint must be judicially approved. The Virgin Islands allow checkpoints on a monthly basis, during national mobilizations, local carnivals and festivals. The Northern Mariana Islands allow twice-monthly checkpoints.