A Brief Overview Of DWI Checkpoints And The Law

DWI checkpoints have to follow specific procedures for any arrest to hold up in court. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration developed guidelines for states to follow based on case law. Failure to abide by these guidelines could result in having your DWI arrest dismissed in a court of law. Here is a brief overview of the guidelines set forth by the NHTSA.

Officer Training

Police officers working DWI checkpoints have to be trained to detect drivers impaired by alcohol and drugs. This training includes getting certified as a drug recognition expert (DRE). A DRE is trained in the seven categories of illicit drug usage. These categories are:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
  • CNS stimulants
  • Hallucinogenics
  • Dissociative Anesthetics
  • Narcotic Analgesics
  • Inhalants
  • Cannabis

The officer has to be able to recognize the different physiological (e.g. pupil sizes) and behavioral differences between each classification.

The officer has to be trained and certified in how to properly test drivers who they suspect of driving under the influence of alcohol (DWIA) and drugs at the time of your arrest at a checkpoint.

Failure to receive and maintain certifications for DRE and DWIA training can disqualify the arresting officer as an expert witness in court, and without their testimony, the charges can be dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Traffic Data

Checkpoints cannot just be set up anywhere. There has to be a program in place to protect the public from impaired drivers, and the police have to justify the locations they choose based up evidence that the road is a place where impaired driving is a problem.

The data used to support a checkpoint location includes traffic accidents involving repaired drivers and a high number of traffic tickets given to impaired drivers that can support the need for checkpoints at a particular location.

This information is a matter of public record, and if your lawyer can show that the area where the checkpoint was located was not a known place where impaired driving is a common problem, the lawyer can fight to have the charges dismissed based on a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.

Checkpoint Warning

The police have to make sure the public is aware of where the checkpoints are before you reach one, and there has to be uniformed officers and marked patrol cars present on site. Failure to properly alert the public of checkpoints through public announcements and signs on the road indicating that a checkpoint has been established is also a cause to have your case dismissed.

For more information, contact R. Patrick McPherson Attorney At Law or a similar legal professional.