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DWI Checkpoints in Nassau County

Long Island DWI Attorney

What are My Rights at DUI Checkpoints?

DUI checkpoints have become a fairly common cause for concern in recent years. The idea is that the police set up a spot at random where they will stop every vehicle that approaches, peak inside the car to say hi, and then let the person pass. The practice has been going on for a long time, but it only gained national attention because of a 1986 case involving a Michigan man named Rick Sitz.

History of DUI / DWI Checkpoints

One could argue that checkpoints gained momentum in America after Brown v. Texas, a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision where the Court was forced to weigh whether the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure was violated in the case, simply because the man would not fully identify himself to police at a roadside checkpoint.

However, the case did create a precedent for roadside stops because the Court declared that in limited circumstances, police could search or detain a person who would otherwise not have been under any suspicion. However, the Court warned that this must be done “pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers.” It seems that courts are content to construe “neutral limitations” to mean a checkpoint at which everyone is stopped.

Later came the 1986 arrest of Rick Sitz, a Michigan man accused of DUI. Michigan State Police had been using the random checkpoints for several years when this happened, but Sitz appealed, and his case moved its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1990, the highest court in the land held that the public interest in stopping drunk driving outweighed any potential violation or intrusion on constitutional rights. In short, DUI checkpoints do not violate your constitutional rights, according to six out of the nine justices who heard the case.

DUI Checkpoint Effectiveness

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that indeed DWI checkpoints are highly effective at curbing the rates of drunk driving collisions. According to CDC reports, checkpoints actually reduce injuries, fatalities, and property damage by about 20% in the roughly 38 states in which they are used.

DUI Checkpoints in Nassau County, NY

Just like Michigan, the practice of setting up a DUI checkpoint is perfectly legal in New York. However, this does not mean the police have unlimited power. They must apply the following general principles:

  • Police must have a reason for the checkpoint prior to setting one up. In other words, the police cannot set up an impromptu checkpoint just to catch a suspect.
  • The police cannot use overly intrusive or impermissible conduct to violate the public’s privacy rights. This is case-by-case, depending on the facts.
  • The police have to use adequate safety measures, like lights, signs, and other indicators so the public knows there is a stop approaching.
  • The courts will not allow stops if the police detain motorists for “unreasonable” amounts of time. What constitutes unreasonable is debatable.
  • The police cannot target specific people or groups. The stops must operate according to a plan that is developed in advance. For instance, it is fine to stop every fourth vehicle or every vehicle. It is not okay to stop every vehicle driven by a woman or just looking for people who appear intoxicated.
  • A supervisor must be at the checkpoint.

Speak to Our Trusted Long Island Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys Today

Call (888) DUI-LAWYER to speak with an experienced Long Island DWI attorney about your DUI checkpoint arrest. Checkpoints are legal on Long Island, but the police must follow the rules. Talk to a DWI lawyer and fight to protect your good record. Remember, you cannot afford to plead guilty; call us 24/7 or contact us online for a free consultation.


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