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Criminal defense topics: The problem with DWI checkpoints

Ordinarily, arbitrary roadblocks violate the Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. This applies to people here in New Hampshire and those across the country. However, the U.S. Supreme Court carved out an exception for DUI or DWI checkpoints based on the need to preserve public safety. The problem that criminal defense attorneys see, however, is that people who are not accused of those crimes could be arrested as well.

There is reason to question the motives behind DWI checkpoints. Could they be a pretext to identify individuals accused of committing other crimes. Last year, approximately 61 people were arrested as the result of stops at DWI checkpoints. However, only 29 of them were arrested for DWI.

That's slightly less than half, which means that the majority of the individuals arrested at these checkpoints last year were not intoxicated. Officers had no probable cause for the stop since it was at a checkpoint. This raises questions among some regarding whether these so-called DWI checkpoints actually meet the exception made by the nation's highest court. The numbers seem to indicate that the checkpoints end up potentially violating the individuals' rights rather than stopping drunk drivers.

Criminal defense attorneys representing those in New Hampshire arrested at a DWI checkpoint for crimes unrelated to DWI may point this out as part of any defense strategy. If the current trend continues, the possibility exists that someone may question the constitutionality of these checkpoints. Until then, those accused of crimes while stopped at them may have an uphill battle challenging the reason for the stop since DWI checkpoints do not require probable cause to stop a vehicle, making the need for a legal advocate all the more crucial in order to achieve the best possible outcome in court.

Source:, "Are DWI checkpoints in N.H. unconstitutional?", Nick Reid, June 24, 2017

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