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Cool, Calm and Collected: Facing DUI Checkpoints the Right Way

Like many other states in the nation, New Jersey regularly uses DUI checkpoints both to ferret out intoxicated drivers and to serve as a deterrent to those who might otherwise hit the road after one too many. At a recent NJ checkpoint, 13 arrests were made, ranging from criminal mischief charges to DUI and possession of controlled dangerous substances. While DUI checkpoints are almost guaranteed to accompany national holiday weekends, increasingly small-scale checkpoints are being introduced to enhance law enforcement visibility and increase perceptions of the risk of drunk driving.

What are DUI checkpoints?

Checkpoints are operations in which all passing vehicles, or specific sequences of vehicles, are stopped at predetermined locations. Depending on traffic volume and law enforcement resources, the scope of checkpoints ranges from selective to comprehensive. Checkpoints usually rely on a primary stop-and-chat stage for all vehicles, which is followed by secondary inspection of vehicles in which officers suspect DUI or other criminal activity.

While the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety maintains that the primary purpose of checkpoints is deterrence, a quick survey of news reports regarding recent checkpoints indicate that any driver who has been drinking runs a high risk of arrest when passing through a checkpoint. Police bank on this fact to deter impaired driving.

What should drivers do when they approach a checkpoint?

Even drivers who are completely sober may feel nervous when approaching a checkpoint, as many people find encounters with law enforcement to be anxiety-provoking experiences. There are several simple steps, however, that all drivers should take to alleviate concerns and facilitate their passage through checkpoints. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm, since the primary red flag officers look for to identify criminal activity is erratic or abnormal behavior on the part of drivers and passengers.

Drivers should also keep the following in mind:

  • Provide officers direct and concise answers to any questions, with an eye to the fact that officers are primarily assessing the driver’s demeanor.
  • Never turn away at a checkpoint, since additional officers are generally in the area for this very reason and are strategically located to catch those who try to avoid passing through.

If you are facing DUI charges, whether from a checkpoint or a conventional traffic stop, call on criminal defense lawyers. Hoffman DiMuzio fights for clients’ rights every step of the way.

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