Are there checkpoints and roadblocks, on Long Island and in New York City, used to check for DWI drivers?
They’re very prevalent, especially in the summertime. There’s a big article in the newspaper that several are being used on Long Island. Most people don’t know they’re publicized. In order to be legal, certain requirements have to be met.
They have to publish there’s a roadblock. There are certain constitutional requirements, statutory requirements, to make sure they don’t only pick men or only pick women. Certain guidelines have to be followed. There has to be written rules; and there has to be supervisors.
Most people don’t know this. Attorneys who don’t practice in the DWI field don’t know these requirements either. Those of us focused on the DWI field know what to look for when someone’s stopped at a checkpoint.
Questions always asked are: Do I have the right to not go into that checkpoint? Can the police pursue you? Recently, the court has come out with decisions about a person’s right to do that.
In Nassau and Suffolk counties, checkpoints are being used a lot. People should be aware. Once the police stop you at a checkpoint, you should be cooperative. However, you have certain rights as a citizen. One is the right to remain silent.
Where do they post checkpoints?
They’re supposed to be published in local newspapers or big papers such as Long Island Newsday. If you are in the Hamptons, check the Hamptons papers. Google checkpoints to see if they’re posted. You should be smart about your driving patterns. If you didn’t drink in excess, it’s not illegal to drink and drive. If you’ve been drinking in excess, you really should be smart. You shouldn’t drive at all. Then, the checkpoint won’t be a problem.
What does a checkpoint look like when you are driving down the road?
It is obvious. Signs are posted that say, “Checkpoint ahead, down the road.” Depending on the number of cars, there may be a back up. Sometimes, it looks like truck stops where they pull people off to the side. A police officer in the street may come over to your window and talk to you. You may be asked to pull over; or they wave you right through.
A DWI case is a police officer’s opinion. It is his opinion if you smelled of alcohol; or had red, bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech. Then, you’re singled out. You’re further investigated and arrested. The other person who may not look exactly like you will be waved through. It’s that crime of opinion that police officers tend to use. We’ll be smarter about it.
What happens if you come to a checkpoint and you turn around? What is the law in New York? Can you defend it?
You can defend it. You have a right to turn around, depending how you do it and if it is legal in the area you make the turn. You can’t break the laws. If there’s a double yellow line or an area you can’t make a turn, you can’t make a turn.
Otherwise, they can pursue you. They can pull you over for making an illegal u-turn. Now, low and behold, they’re going to say you had red, bloodshot, watery eyes; slurred speech and smelled of alcohol. You have to be smart about how you drive and how you decide not to go to that checkpoint.
Are cases where you are pulled over and arrested at a checkpoint more defensible than any other DWI case?
They are exactly defensible. Sometimes they are better. Sometimes they are the same as others. The ideal case is where the police officer is following you for a mile or longer; and his video camera shows you driving fine.
He’s busy saying you’re intoxicated. Meanwhile, we have certain evidence you are operating a car just like a sober person. A checkpoint is different than pulling you over because of bad driving. They’re pulling you over because it’s a checkpoint.
That’s when they decided you had serious symptoms that people don’t have. The government doesn’t recognize red, bloodshot, watery eyes. However, police officers love to say that. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. They shine a flashlight in your eyes. You have been up for 18 hours. Your eyes are red; you have to be intoxicated. I make fun of it because it is a silly thing they do.