Douglas Hanna Weighs in on the Increase of DWI Checkpoints in NJ

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As NJ police cracks down on drunk driving, are you aware of your rights?

Last year there were a total 1,575 DWI arrests made by the police departments across the state of New Jersey. In a recent article posted by (, it appears that they will only be cracking down on the issue even harder this year.

The legality of DWI checkpoints has long been debated. Is it an invasion of privacy? Can police set up a road block and question someone without probable cause? This issue has been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court heard a Delaware case involving the checkpoint constitutionality challenge by defendants and their attorneys.

Justice Warren Berger said, "A central concern in balancing these competing considerations in a variety of settings has been to assure an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy is not subject to an arbitrary invasion solely at the unfettered discretion of officers in the field."

The New Jersey case of State v. Brembt 202 NJ Super 35-37 (App. Div. 1985) sets forth the NJ standard procedures for DWI checkpoints.

We wrote that when stopping a vehicle at a checkpoint or roadblock, "[t]the police need not show probable cause to stop any individual driver but they must show some rational basis for deploying this type of intrusive law enforcement technique." 202 N.J. Super. at 56. To meet the requirements of the New Jersey Constitution, a roadblock "must be established for a specific need and to achieve a particular purpose at a specific place." State v. Carty, 170 N.J. 632, 652 (2002). In order to justify the intrusion of these stops, the State must demonstrate "some substantial benefit to the public from the road-block stops and some appropriate control of the discretion of the officer in the field." State v. Kirk, supra, 202 N.J. Super. at 55.

Further, "[s]imply sending out officers to set up road blocks when and where they felt like it, without any command participation as to site, time and duration, and not based on articulated and rational law enforcement needs" would not be likely to pass constitution muster. Id. At 41.

If the road block was established by a command or supervisory authority and was carefully targeted to a designated area at a specified time and place based on data justifying the site selection for reasons of public safety and reasonably efficacious or productive law enforcement goals, the road block will likely pass constitution muster. Other factors which enhanced judicial approval were (1) adequate warnings to avoid frightening the traveling public, (2) advance general publicity designed to deter drunken drivers from getting in cars in the first place, and (3) officially specified neutral and courteous procedures for intercepting officers to follow when stopping drivers.

An example of police establishing the situation to alert drivers would be that the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office published upcoming Friday and Saturday night DWI checkpoints ( in the previous edition of the Asbury Park Press on Thursday, August 7, 2014 for Route 36 in Keyport NJ. This is part of a continuing DWI checkpoint program.

The checkpoints, which are actually roadblocks, stop and screen cars on a specific roadway, typically from 11 pm to 3 am.    

Douglas Hanna, Attorney in Manasquan New Jersey, informs people that “NJ Law Enforcement agencies are required to publicize the roadblocks as a condition precedent to a DWI prosecution recently for a checkpoint arrest. This information which is free with the purchase of the Asbury Park Press on Friday is also sold on the internet. among others offers a one month free trial period which includes statewide postings county by county for NJ and other states.”

Hanna also added that “DWI roadblocks (sobriety checkpoints) are subject to the same constitutional safeguards as other type of vehicle stops conducted by police officers. The usual probable cause which is required for a traffic stop that results in a ticket or arrest is lacking in the roadblock - checkpoint scenario.”

For a fuller roadblock analysis by the Court see State v. Brembt A 0103-09T4

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Doug Hanna
Douglas Hanna Civil Trial Attorney
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