The number of motor vehicle accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs usually increases significantly during holiday periods. This is why law enforcement agencies in New York and around the country often launch holiday drunk driving crackdowns. These efforts usually include setting up checkpoints near bars, nightclubs and other areas where drunk driving is common that are designed to identify impaired motorists before they cause accidents.
Fourth Amendment challenge to sobriety checkpoints
The legality of sobriety checkpoints was challenged in 1990 by Michigan residents who claimed that they violated protections against unreasonable government search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the role sobriety checkpoints play in deterring drunk driving and improving road safety outweighed a “negligible” inconvenience for drivers. The justices also concluded that the questions asked by police officers to determine whether or not a motorist was operating their vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs were not intrusive enough to violate the Fourth Amendment.
New York Thanksgiving DWI crackdown
Sobriety checkpoints were a prominent part of a Thanksgiving DWI crackdown conducted by the New York State Police between Nov. 25 and Nov. 29. During the crackdown, NYSP troopers responded to 757 accident scenes and took 155 drivers into custody on DWI charges. In addition to setting up DWI checkpoints, the NYSP ramped up patrols across the Empire State and used unmarked vehicles to identify drivers using their cellphones while behind the wheel.
Drunk driving defenses
Motorists are usually taken into custody at sobriety checkpoints after taking roadside breath tests. They are then transported to police facilities with more sophisticated breath-testing equipment. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may question the reliability of breath-test results and seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed if the equipment used was poorly maintained or their client suffers from diabetes or one of the other medical conditions that can skew BAC readings.