What are my rights at a DUI checkpoint in New York?

Many drivers feel as though DUI checkpoints infringe on their personal liberties. Some drivers feel as though they must prove themselves innocent of not driving while impaired at these roadblocks. Although sobriety checkpoints can be heavy-handed at times, the United States Supreme Court has condoned their use under specific conditions. In other words, the police have a legitimate interest in protecting public safety, but they must also observe the Bill of Rights in the process.

Perhaps a good example of this is case law regarding people attempting to avoid or turn away from DUI checkpoints. Here in New York, courts have decided that a motorist turning into a parking lot to avoid a sobriety checkpoint had given police sufficient probable cause to further investigate them. Conversely, New York courts have held that a driver who avoids a DUI checkpoint simply by merging onto another highway did not give sufficient probable cause to initiate an investigatory stop.

This is important because it shows that New York courts place a great deal of emphasis on the reasons for which police pull you over. Courts want to prevent police from abusing their power, but they also want police to be free to stop people who pose a legitimate risk to the health and safety of others.

You should also know that police must also observe your rights after they have stopped you and began evaluating whether you are impaired. New York is considered an implied consent state. Essentially that means that by accepting your driver's license, you have consented to testing of your blood, urine, breath or saliva for blood alcohol concentration testing. However, a police officer must first have probable cause to suspect that you are driving while impaired prior to administering those tests. Furthermore, police can use your refusal as evidence against you later but only if they have first given you sufficient warning that is clear and unambiguous.

As you can see, the laws surrounding roadside sobriety checkpoints can be somewhat complicated. If you are currently facing DUI charges, you should know that you have a right to challenge the evidence and testimony offered against you in court. Your New York criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts surrounding your traffic stop and subsequent arrest. In some cases, your attorney may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

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