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Are sobriety checkpoints legal in New York?

With the St. Patrick's festivities here, police across the United States may be setting up what are known as "sobriety checkpoints." Individuals in New York may wonder why they are legal. After all, 12 states in the nation have actually deemed them to be illegal, and police usually need reasonable suspicion to stop a driver.

In general, a sobriety checkpoint will take place at blocked-off intersection. At the checkpoint, police will regularly and randomly stop drivers. At these stops, police will look for evidence that the motorist is driving under the influence.

In 1990, the United States Supreme Court determined that the nation's states had an interest that was "compelling" in stopping motorists from driving under the influence. It was a public safety concern that trumped any privacy interests the motorist may have. Although others have challenged such checkpoints claiming they violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches, the Court deemed that this wasn't the case and due to the circumstance they were indeed reasonable.

Although federal law maintains that sobriety checkpoints are legal, states themselves are allowed to determine whether to implement them. Twelve states in the nation have determined that sobriety checkpoints violate their state's constitutions or laws. Unfortunately, New York is not one of them.

Individuals who are stopped at sobriety checkpoints and believe their rights have been violated may want to consult with a professional, especially if such a stop led to criminal charges. With the right help, individuals can craft a strong defense to counter the arguments proffered by the prosecution that they were driving under the influence, and hopefully result in a dismissed charge.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Checkpoints," accessed March 14, 2016

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