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Are All New Hampshire DWI Checkpoints Legal?

DWI checkpoints, also known as sobriety checkpoints, are a controversial tool used by New Hampshire police departments to catch intoxicated drivers. During a DWI checkpoint, police officers set up a roadblock and stop drivers for a temporary detention in order to investigate whether the drivers are driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances. DWI checkpoints allow police officers to pull over a driver even if they did not witness any traffic violation or suspicious operation of the vehicle. However, the question remains, are all DWI checkpoints legal?

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire stated that the validity of a sobriety checkpoint depends upon two factors:

  • Whether it is more effective at advancing the public interest than other, less intrusive means; and
  • Whether its value outweighs the degree of intrusion it involves. (State of N.H. v. Hunt, 2007)

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office has set guidelines in place for sobriety checkpoints. In order for a police department to conduct a legal DWI checkpoint in New Hampshire, the police must:

  • Provide the public with advance notice of the DWI checkpoint;
  • Obtain judicial authorization for the checkpoint (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. ยง265:1-a); and
  • Administer the checkpoint according to the protocols established by the court order authorizing the checkpoint.

Police officers are limited to only using checkpoints in an attempt to find impaired drivers. However, in New Hampshire, police officers cannot force drivers to submit to roadside tests if they have been stopped in a DWI checkpoint. So, unless there has been an arrest made, there is no consequence for refusing pre-arrest field tests. Furthermore, it is important to know that the police cannot use a DWI checkpoint for more generalized criminal investigations, like finding illegal drugs.

Due to some of the legal questions regarding the use of DWI checkpoints, you should immediately contact an experienced DWI defense attorney if you were recently arrested after being stopped at a New Hampshire DWI checkpoint. Our experienced DWI defense attorneys at Wilson, Bush & Keefe, P.C.  can help you understand the charges against you and can defend your case in court.

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