Approaching DUI checkpoints can be anxiety-provoking for drivers, regardless of whether they have been drinking or if their blood alcohol content (BAC) would read within the legal limits. If you’re a New Jersey resident or a visitor to the city, you may be wondering if it’s illegal to turn around at a DUI checkpoint in the state. The short answer is, for the most part, no. However, there are certain instances where an officer may be required to stop a driver who avoids the checkpoint. Let’s dive into DUI checkpoints and the legalities surrounding them.
A DUI checkpoint, also referred to as a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint, is a specified location where police officers stop vehicles for routine sobriety tests. When a driver notices a checkpoint ahead, they may be tempted to turn to avoid the location even if they are completely sober, as police stops can be intimidating no matter what the situation may be.
During a DUI checkpoint stop, officers generally pick out certain vehicles at random, as well as vehicles that may be suspect. Drivers are asked to exit their vehicles and perform field sobriety tests such as walking and turning or one-legged stands. If the driver passes these tests, they are usually free to go. If they fail, follow-up chemical testing is most often required.
If you come across a DUI checkpoint in New Jersey, the first thing to understand is that these checkpoints are not the same as DUI traffic stops, and you can perform a legal U-turn to avoid it. However, it is illegal to turn around at a DUI checkpoint if it is located in an area where you cannot perform a legal U-turn or turn on a nearby street. In this case, it is always best to comply with the police officers conducting the stop.
In most cases, when drivers arrive at DUI checkpoints, they are generally asked to provide valid identification, proof of insurance, and registration. They are then asked to perform the field tests as noted above. It’s important to note if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you can refuse to answer all questions that go beyond providing vital information. If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you can also refuse. If they proceed after your refusal, this can be considered an illegal search and seizure.
In certain situations, drivers may believe their constitutional rights are being violated if they are made to stop at a DUI checkpoint. However, the US Supreme Court has determined that a DUI checkpoint does not constitute an illegal search and seizure. If turning around at a DUI checkpoint leads to a violation of traffic laws and regulations of the state, it’s imperative to know your rights in the event of a stop.
If you’ve been stopped at a DUI checkpoint and it leads to an arrest or a citation for other violations such as a broken taillight or unpaid traffic tickets, a representative of Shugar Law Office can provide legal advice and assist in your defense. They can also guide you through the process of attending preliminary court-held hearings, paying fines, and handling any other subsequent penalties.
Shugar Law Office represents clients in a wide range of criminal and vehicular law matters, and we’re one of the only legal firms that provide text updates to clients to keep them updated on their cases at all times. If you’re facing DUI charges due to being stopped by law enforcement at a DUI checkpoint, contact us for a consultation today.