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New York Sobriety Checkpoints: When Your Rights May Seem to Evaporate

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. An officer, therefore, may not stop a motorist on a whim or hunch; the officer must have reason to believe that a traffic violation or crime has been committed – e.g., speeding, improper lane change, failure to signal, etc. Without such “probable cause,” you may not be stopped, and any evidence obtained pursuant to the stop – a subsequent breathalyzer reading or a videotape of a field sobriety test – is inadmissible in a later trial.

Exception for Sobriety Checkpoints

DUI spot checks are an important exception to the normal probable cause rules. New York courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, have held that the needs of the state to prevent drunk-driving accidents outweigh the minimal intrusion on sober drivers. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that sobriety checkpoints prevent nearly one out of ten DUI-related deaths.

Police are permitted to set up sobriety checkpoints to identify drivers who are driving while impaired. They either stop every vehicle or stop vehicles at some predetermined, regular interval (e.g., every 4th vehicle).

Checkpoints Are Supposed to Be Random and Publicized

While the checkpoints are supposed to be random, they are generally set up at times when drinking and driving are most likely to occur, such as on holidays and weekends. One important guideline in the use of sobriety checkpoints: Police officials must publicize them beforehand. Advance notice related to most New York checkpoints can be found at the following web site.

Driving is a Privilege, Not a Right

New York courts have also ruled that, when a resident gets a driver’s license, he or she has impliedly consented to submit to a chemical test following an arrest for a DWI or DUI offense. If you have been involved in an accident, the officer may ask you to take a breath test and, if that test shows blood alcohol content (BAC) of greater than 0.08 percent, the officer will usually administer a chemical test.

Refusal to Take a Breath or Chemical Test

In either case, a driver can refuse the test, but not without penalty. For example, a first offense of refusal to take a chemical test is suspension of driving privileges for one year. The driver is also fined $500. One must also remember that refusing the test does not mean that you won’t be later convicted of the DWI offense. Such a conviction would entail another fine and, depending upon the circumstances, possible jail time, as well.

A DWI or DUI Charge is a Serious Matter

New York has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the nation. The penalties for a conviction can be severe. If you have been charged with a DUI or DWI offense, you owe it to yourself to retain the best legal team available. E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy has the judgment and experience to negotiate the best possible plea, but we also have the skills and tenacity required to take your case to trial, if necessary.

We are one of the most highly respected law firms in upstate New York and the capital district. We have been representing clients for more than 125 years; our law practice has stood the test of time. The E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy law firm has an attorney available to assist clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – even on holidays. Make the right call. Call us now at (518) 284-3183 or complete our online form.

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