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Can You Refuse a DUI Checkpoint in NYC?

— July 26, 2022

DUI checkpoints don’t occur only on holidays. They can happen randomly at any time.

Many people believe that DUI checkpoints or sobriety checkpoints are illegal and unconstitutional. However, in many states, including New York, the courts have established that sobriety checkpoints are legal as long as they follow state and federal law.

These checkpoints must be announced beforehand and conducted so as not to violate a person’s constitutional right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. If you are pressed into doing field sobriety tests or your rights were violated during the sobriety checkpoint, the best thing to do would be to contact a New York City drunk driver attorney.

Understanding What You Can and Can’t Do at Sobriety Checkpoints in NYC

Under New York traffic law, DUI checkpoints are deemed legal. Those checkpoints mainly occur during holidays since this is when DUI arrests typically surge. Their purpose is to catch people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reduce the possibility of an accident, and deter them from driving under the influence.

DUI checkpoints don’t occur only on holidays. They can happen randomly at any time. However, the police department must provide public notice of upcoming DUI checkpoints. If you are heading towards a sobriety checkpoint, you can opt to evade it as long as you don’t break any traffic laws.

It is legal and shouldn’t constitute a valid reason for the police to pull you over later. When present at a DUI checkpoint, the same constitutional rights apply. A driver doesn’t need to consent to any searches or answer any of the police officer’s questions.

If you speak with the officer, it’s best to do so calmly and respectfully. Keep in mind that DUI/DWI checkpoints in New York have to comply with the following rules:

  • Every checkpoint needs to serve a purpose
  • The sobriety checkpoint cannot violate a motorist’s privacy to a certain degree
  • Checkpoints need to have enough lightning and warning signs for motorist safety
  • Authorities aren’t allowed to hold up a driver for an unreasonable amount of time
  • Police officers have to use a random formula when stopping cars
  • A supervisor must be present to oversee the checkpoint

What Should You Do if Stopped At a Sobriety Checkpoint in NYC?

If you are stopped at a field sobriety checkpoint in New York City, you should provide the documents requested by the police officer and avoid answering questions while staying calm and being polite. You have the option to hand over the documents with a note that says you won’t be lowering your window.

DUI graphic
Image courtesy of Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay,

Make sure that your insurance information and your vehicle’s registration are easily accessible. You should avoid making any admissions as they can be used against you. 

If the police wish to detain you within the scope of conducting a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer, the best thing would be to comply with it, but you have the right to refuse. This will incur the same penalty as driving under the influence.

The best thing to do in this situation is to contact an attorney. If you are arrested at a sobriety checkpoint, don’t make a deal and don’t confess to anything. It would be best if you contacted a lawyer right away.

The police officers might not have probable cause to detain you, and this is where your lawyer can step in and use this in court for your DUI/DWI defense.

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