When police officers arrest people for driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses in New Hampshire, their interactions are typically the result of targeted enforcement efforts. Police officers tend to carefully scrutinize those involved in motor vehicle collisions and test them to rule out impairment as a cause for the crash. Many police officers will also conduct traffic stops when they see signs of intoxication in a driver.
Such small-scale enforcement efforts have done very little to deter drunk driving across the state. Police departments hoping to make a big impact on public safety might want to conduct a sobriety checkpoint, which some people refer to as a drunk driving roadblock.
Is it legal for police officers to stop large numbers of drivers and screen them for intoxication?
Despite reform attempts, DWI roadblocks are still legal
The federal courts have ruled on the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints and established that they are permissible under federal law. State lawmakers in New Hampshire have previously attempted to prohibit sobriety checkpoints, but such efforts have been unsuccessful thus far.
Currently, it is legal for police departments to conduct sobriety checkpoints. However, they need appropriate paperwork and to abide by specific rules set in place. For example, officers can only briefly screen individual drivers and must have an articulable suspicion if they want to conduct enhanced screening or detain a driver.
The officers will also have to properly document any evidence that they feel supports their suspicions of chemical impairment or the defendants could very well mount a defense in criminal court.
Can you avoid a sobriety checkpoint?
Sometimes, police departments announce that they intend to have a checkpoint before they do so. If you carefully track public announcements by law enforcement agencies you may be able to avoid roadblocks by planning your next drive carefully.
Still, you could still encounter a sobriety checkpoint. If you do, it is not necessarily illegal for you to change your route to avoid the checkpoint. However, engaging in illegal maneuvers to turn around might give officers a reason to pull you over on an individual basis.
Those swept up in a sobriety checkpoint can potentially defend themselves against any charges that result. Learning more about the New Hampshire laws that apply to DWI offenses can help those facing pending charges.