If there is anything worse than seeing the flashing lights of a police vehicle behind you in traffic, it is rounding a corner or crusting a hill to spot a bank of police vehicles in front of you. For those who encounter a sobriety checkpoint, also known as drunk driving roadblocks, fear and panic are common responses.
Even those who are perfectly sober and know that they have not violated traffic laws may worry intensely about their upcoming interaction with the police. If you understand what occurs at a sobriety checkpoint, you may feel less anxious about your impending interaction with law enforcement and will be better equipped to deal with any consequences that arise.
What happens at a checkpoint?
Both the current interpretation of the federal Constitution by the Supreme Court and New Hampshire state law allow sobriety checkpoints, provided that the police departments involved have the appropriate paperwork in place and that the officers performing the checkpoint follow the right procedures.
The point of a roadblock is to briefly screen every driver who comes through. For a checkpoint to be legal, officers should treat every vehicle that approaches approximately the same. Officers only have the right to ask someone a few questions during a roadblock encounter. Only when they have probable cause to suspect chemical impairment or another criminal infraction can they order a driver to move to the side of the road for enhanced screening.
If an officer suspects you of chemical impairment based on your behavior or your answers to their questions, you may have to exit your vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. Depending on your performance during that test, you also have to submit the chemical testing. Officers may arrest you depending on how the situation unfolds.
Can you fight roadblock-related charges?
Although there may be video footage of your poor performance on a field sobriety test or a chemical breath test that seems to indicate you were over the per se limit, you may very well have a viable defense strategy available to you. From reviewing the maintenance records for the breath test unit used to administer your test to gathering medical records to present to the courts, there are multiple different strategies that can work for those accused of impaired driving.
Avoiding drunk driving charges in New Hampshire requires an understanding of the law and of what police officers can do on the road.