It’s the law—in New Jersey as well as 37 other states—police can set up sobriety checkpoints and seek to determine whether drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel. The provisions of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, have limited application in these situations, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the public interest in minimizing the number of drunk drivers on the roads outweighs the rights of citizens to be free from such actions. Accordingly, there’s no requirement that police have probable cause to stop a driver in a sobriety checkpoint, but the officer must have reasonable suspicion of intoxication to ask the driver to participate in a field sobriety test, and must have additional probable cause to search a vehicle.
One of the requirements for the legality of sobriety checkpoints in New Jersey is that the checkpoint must be reasonably visible as drivers approach it. That begs the question—what if you see a sobriety checkpoint ahead of you and you don’t want to go through it? Can you legally turn around and take another route, simply to avoid the operation? Can police use the fact that you are turning around as “probable cause” that you are intoxicated?
The courts in New Jersey have ruled that it’s not illegal to intentionally avoid a sobriety checkpoint and that police cannot use any legal attempt to circumvent such an operation as probable cause to stop a motorist. It’s important to understand, though, that you must fully obey the law when you avoid the checkpoint. Don’t make an illegal U-turn or fail to use turn signals. In addition, if you have broken or defective equipment on your car, police can use it to pull you over.
Contact Mallon & Tranger
We offer a free initial consultation to anyone in New Jersey who has been charged with a crime. For a meeting, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 877-320-0692) for an appointment. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.