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Why are DWI checkpoints legal?

If you are pulled over, an officer normally needs a valid reason to suspect you were breaking the law. However, at sobriety checkpoints, anyone can be stopped and asked to take a chemical test.

Does this practice infringe upon your fourth amendment rights? Not in the state of New York. Here's why.

Why checkpoints are legal

Checkpoints are used primarily to check for drivers who may be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and are over the legal limit. Checkpoints are usually used around the holidays when there is a greater chance for people to be out driving intoxicated. Holidays like the fourth of July, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

When it comes to checkpoints, many people wonder if they constitute an unreasonable search and seizure. This issue was brought forth to the Supreme Court back in 1990. It was decided then that checkpoints are not only legal but a crucial method of law enforcement. However, ten states -- not including New York -- have since outlawed sobriety checkpoints.

Fourth Amendment

Your privacy against unreasonable search and seizures is protected under the fourth amendment. Prior to a search, a police officer will in most cases need to obtain a search warrant. However, the Supreme Court ruling stated that a temporary DUI checkpoint that does not have a reasonable suspicion can still be used to stop and have an officer engage with a driver. The logic behind the ruling is that the Court believes there is a greater importance with keeping impaired drivers off the road than an intrusion that motorists may face.

When is a checkpoint deemed unreasonable?

There are times when a checkpoint can be ruled to be unauthorized by a court. This can happen if the police were to ever delay a driver for an extended amount of time or even search the inside of the car when there is no evidence of any wrongdoing or impairment.

You have rights at a checkpoint

If you are ever stopped at a DWI checkpoint, remember you still have rights. You are not required to answer any of the questions posed to you by the officer. Also, participating in any field sobriety tests are voluntary on your part and you do not need to participate in them. If you do take part in a field sobriety test and an officer believes you have failed the test, you will be asked to take a chemical test. This test of your blood, breath or urine will determine if you are intoxicated. You can refuse to take the test. However, under the implied consent law, you'll face penalties that could be as harsh as failing the test.

If you have been wondering if DWI checkpoints are legal, they aren't in ten states. However, sobriety checkpoints are legal in New York. Always remember your rights if you are stopped at a checkpoint.

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