In the news – 17 arrested for DWI violations in a Raleigh DWI checkpoint with an additional criminal or traffic violations issued for dozens more. According to news reports, Police officers from Apex, Cary, Raleigh, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon helped in the operation, along with the State Highway Patrol.
Let’s review DWI checkpoint law. In a typical Driving While Impaired investigation, the vehicle is stopped by an officer who observes something questionable about the vehicle or its driving – reasonable articulable suspicion.
In a Raleigh DWI arrest arising out of a checkpoint, there is no “stop” of the vehicle. The driver approaches the checkpoint, is required to stop by checkpoint officers, and may be subjected to a brief investigation.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the checkpoint must satisfy a constitutional purpose. The constitutional purpose must be narrow and limited. The fact that, of the 90 violations issued last night, only 17 were for DWI may suggest that the checkpoint on South New Hope Road and South Rogers Lane was not narrow and limited. In other words, general crime enforcement is not a permissible use of a checkpoint. (Officers may arrest people on other charges if, upon stopping the vehicle, they observe conduct that gives rise to probable cause as to other offenses. For instance, if an officer smells marijuana, an officer at a DWI checkpoint may start a brief drug investigation.)
Next, the Supreme Court has said that when there is a plan with a constitutional purpose, the plan must be clear to the officers working at the checkpoint, and the plan must be followed by those officers. Officers are not allowed to deviate from the plan, except unless the deviations are authorized by the officer in charge of the checkpoint, and only where the deviations are meant to serve some large purpose, such as keeping the traffic flowing.
Finally, under North Carolina law, officers from different jurisdictions must be assigned to a checkpoint under a written agreement signed by either the chief of the officer’s department, or a designee of the chief. Officers from Cary or Apex, for instance, may not working a Wake County Sheriff’s checkpoint except where there has been express written prior authorization from the Cary or Apex chief of police or his or her designee.
Of course, the other issues related to a DWI investigation matter – was the person impaired, was the person released from custody soon after arrest (or informed of his implied consent rights with respect to detention), etc.
These are all issues your Raleigh DWI lawyer should review with you.