The Constitutionality of Roadblocks in DWI Cases

We are frequently asked about the constitutionality (legality) of roadblocks which result in DWI charges in New Jersey. The constitutionality of police roadblocks was addressed in the 1979 United States Supreme Court case of Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). In Prouse, the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to stop and detain a driver absent articulable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed, that the automobile is unregistered, or the vehicle or an occupant is otherwise subject to seizure for violation of law (e.g. motor vehicle violation, warrant, etc.). The issue was, however, revisited under New Jersey’s Constitution in State v. Kirk, 202 N.J. Super 28 (App.Div.1985). In Kirk, the court held that temporary road blocks set up by New Jersey police were unconstitutional absent safeguards such as identified procedures for ensuring supervisory control of checkpoints and warnings to motorists of the anticipated roadblock. The case of State v. Moskal 246 N.J. Super 12 (1991)┬ádisplays how the required procedures must operate if the roadblock is to be valid. In Moskal, the court concluded that a sobriety checkpoint (i.e. a roadblock) is valid provided the location of the checkpoint is appropriate based on historical arrest rates at the location, public safety and awareness would be fostered by the checkpoint, there is participation in command and supervision, and notice of the checkpoint is published to provide motorist with notice.

Basically, therefore, roadblocks are constitutional and valid in New Jersey if these procedural safeguards are met by law enforcement officers.