Sobriety checkpoints, often called DWI roadblocks, feel like an invasion of privacy.
They are strategically set along main roads with one purpose: finding drunken drivers.
At these checkpoints, all vehicles must stop, and law enforcement can assess if the driver is inebriated at the time. If the officer suspects that the driver has been drinking, they may perform a field sobriety test or breathalyzer to confirm.
While an invasion of your privacy, DWI roadblocks are legal in North Carolina per North Carolina Statute Section 20-16.3A.
Despite the legality, DWI roadblocks are highly controversial. Depending on the circumstances, the courts may potentially dismiss a case. However, before finding yourself in court, it is best that you understand your rights and what law enforcement can and cannot do at these roadblocks.
DWI Roadblocks are Legal, but Law Enforcement has Limitations
There are only ten states in the U.S. that find sobriety checkpoints unconstitutional, and North Carolina is not one of them. While these checkpoints are legal, that does not mean law enforcement can select whom they want to pull over. Instead, the checkpoint must pass certain rules to ensure it is not violating motorists’ Fourth Amendment rights.
1. The Check Must be at Random
If law enforcement is targeting in any way, then they could be accused of profiling. Instead, a DWI roadblock, once fully set up, must inspect all vehicles crossing that checkpoint or have a system in place that inspects vehicles randomly. The random selection must be systematic, such as checking every five or ten vehicles.
2. The Checkpoint Must Have a Stated Purpose
Law enforcement officers cannot use these checkpoints to find evidence of any criminal act. Instead, they must have a defined purpose. For example, a sobriety checkpoint cannot look for signs of theft.
3. The Location Must be Announced
North Carolina does require that the police publish the site of their DWI roadblocks in advance. Also, the state requires that the checkpoint is visible with flashing blue lights to notify motorists.
4. Police Can Track You Down if You Avoid the DWI Roadblock
While you have rights, and officers have limitations, if you turn around or obviously maneuver to avoid the checkpoint, officers can track you down and pull you over to inquire why.
5. Officers Can Arrest or Give Citations for Other Traffic Offenses
If you are driving on a suspended license or have broken headlights, the law allows officers to cite those violations. However, they cannot outright look for non-traffic-related offenses.
Arrested at a DWI Roadblock? Contact an Attorney
While law enforcement can use these roadblocks, not all searches and evidence gathered from them is done so legally. Therefore, an arrest at a DWI roadblock could still result in case dismissal or reduction in the charges.
Regardless, protecting your rights and ensuring you do not face harsh penalties of a DWI comes down to your legal defense. Collaborating with an attorney from DeMent Askew, may help your case. Our team understands the laws for DWI roadblocks, and we can help you better understand the charges against you.
Contact our offices now at 919-833-5555 to schedule a no-obligation meeting with an attorney, or inquire online.