In New Jersey and all other states, a police officer must have reasonable cause to pull you over in a traffic stop. Any number of issues may apply, such as a speed above the posted limit or a brake light that is not functioning. There is one practice known as DWI roadblocks, however, where police make random vehicle stops.
This issue has been hotly debated across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DWI checkpoints are legal if they meet certain criteria. There are several things you’ll want to know if you are traveling in New Jersey and come upon a group of police officers who have set up a roadblock to catch drunk drivers.
Fumbling for documentation may be interpreted as intoxication
When a police officer approaches your driver’s side window at a DWI checkpoint, he or she will be closely observing your appearance and behavior. The officer might ask to see your driver’s license and vehicle registration information. If you want to avoid problems, you will want to keep such documents in an easily accessible location and know exactly where they are.
If you exhibit any possible signs of drunkenness or the officer sees something inside of your car, such as an open can of beer, you may be asked to exit your vehicle to take a field sobriety test. If the glove compartment in your car is cluttered, or you forget where you put the needed documents, you might fumble around while you are searching for them, which the officer might consider a sign of intoxication.
You are not obligated to answer interrogatory questions
Another thing to remember if you are stopped at a New Jersey DWI checkpoint is that you may invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. In other words, if an officer asks you where you have been, where you are going or whether you have consumed any alcohol before getting behind the wheel, you do not have to answer the questions.
Answering such questions could work against you if you wind up being taken into police custody for suspected drunk driving. You may tell the officer that you choose to remain silent. Police officers know that it is your constitutional right to do so.
Do not show signs of anger or impatience
While New Jersey police officers are required to be courteous and to exhibit neutral behavior when conducting a DWI checkpoint, if they feel threatened or believe that you are placing public safety at risk, they can and will detain you. If you start yelling at a police officer or try to do a U-turn to avoid passing through the checkpoint, it could lead to some serious legal problems.
It is best to remain calm and to cooperate with a DWI roadblock procedure. If you believe that police have not met the requirements necessary for a checkpoint to be legal, and your stop results in drunk driving charges, you may be able to challenge the constitutionality of the charge.